Oops. The Department of Revenue laid off 35 temp workers who help process tax returns just as thousands of April tax returns arrived.
Not only will Mississippi tax returns get processed late, but the snafu made April tax collections come up short by $85 million.
Gov. Phil Bryant has already had to make mid-year budget cuts. He included the Department of Revenue. The department chose to lay off its temp processors. Hopefully, revenue will catch up as tax returns finally get processed. But, if a big shortfall remains after May, the governor will be forced to make a third round of cuts. June will be the only month left in this fiscal year for agencies, universities, and community colleges to absorb the cuts. State funded employees should be ready for a month of furloughs.
Oops. Legislators' last minute assault on agency funding put the Department of Health, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the Office of Attorney General and other agencies in dire straits.
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Trying to balance next year's state budget in the face of revenue shortfalls, the Legislature, without notice, little debate, and questionable due diligence, confiscated special funds and outlawed interagency transactions.
"It could cost the state more than $20 million in federal funding because agencies will be unable to receive federal reimbursement without a bill from another state agency," said a spokeswoman for the Office of Attorney General.
Health Department director Dr. Mary Currier said when disasters hit, her department oversees evacuations of care facilities, operates emergency clinics, and ensures water, food, and facilities are safe in the aftermath. To cover these extraordinary costs her department receives federal funds through MEMA. "I don't know," she told the Clarion-Ledger when asked what her agency will do without MEMA funds when a disaster hits.
MEMA director Lee Smithson told the newspaper that since he took office on Feb. 1, "the state has seen 33 confirmed tornadoes and flooding in 42 of 82 counties, 26 of which were issued federal disaster declarations."
"The second order effect of this budget reduction is huge," said Smithson. "For every dollar they take, I could potentially lose two."
Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said the Legislature's move could hurt fire protection statewide and increase homeowners' insurance premiums.
Oops. Money to pay debt service on state bonds will be short by over $30 million. And, several projects in the new $308 million bond bill won't pass muster.
State Treasurer Lynn Fitch said she had notified legislative leaders that money for bond payments would be insufficient. "I stand by that conclusion now," she told the Mississippi Business Journal. Fitch also said, "There are different components of the (bond) bill that don't meet the test for what you would borrow money for." These include using long-term bonds to pay for salaries and routine operating expenses, recurring expenses, and short-life projects such as landscaping.
"Sorry, oops," was used unsuccessfully to explain shortcomings by former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Wonder what line Gov. Bryant and legislative leaders will use?
Contact Bill Crawford, a syndicated columnist from Meridian, at email@example.com