As the Mississippi Legislature's annual session winds down, lawmakers are still negotiating certain aspects of the 2014 budget.
Legislative leaders had agreed on a $5.7 billion general fund budget, which is about 2% higher than the current year's budget due to an anticipated increase in projected revenues of $97 million. The amount of the total budget was not immediately available.
The budget includes $250 million in "rainy day" reserves.
Though no new debt was approved last year because the two chambers could not agree on an amount, lawmakers have agreed to authorize $200 million of bonds in the fiscal 2014 budget.
The new bonds will provide for various funds for various capital needs, including $96 million for state colleges and universities and $25 million for community colleges.
The Legislature will spend nearly $35 million in cash on building repairs and technology upgrades rather than issue debt to cover these expenses as it has done in previous years, according to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who also serves as president of the Senate.
"In the past, the Legislature has issued debt for roof repairs and new paint, which means taxpayers were paying interest over 20 years for building repairs that lasted less than a decade," Reeves said. "The state needs to reduce its reliance on debt for routine maintenance, and this budget is a good first step."
Lawmakers also agreed to repeal previous authorizations for more than $220 million in unissued bonds for which no projects were listed. The state is scheduled to pay off about $240 million of debt this fiscal year.
While conferees had agreed on an $18.4 million increase in the Division of Medicaid for a total agency budget of $840 million, House Democrats blocked passage of the Medicaid budget bill Sunday because they want to vote on whether to expand the program under the federal health care reform act.
The Legislature meets for 90 days each year, and the annual session will end soon.