As state agencies present their budgets for the next fiscal year to a joint legislative budget committee, state economist Darrin Webb told law makers while the threat of a recession still lingers, the state isn't in one but has yet to return to pre recession levels.
"We're growing but the growth is at an incredibly slow pace," said Webb.
Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant says that slow pace could make the next few years a financial challenge for the state. Bryant expects by the end of the week agencies will have a requested about $1 billion in additional funding to last years budgets.
Those requests will be in conjunction with an anticipated loss.
"We've got about a $1.1 billion hole we're trying to dig out of because of the absence now or the stimulus money that will not be present so it's going to be a real challenge," said Bryant.
The week long budget hearings will help put a financial blueprint in place for the legislature , but Bryant says the current hearings are a waste of time and money. With expected turnover on the committee, Bryant pushed for law makers to postpone the hearings until November when the state gets it's first revenue projection.
"What we're doing here is we're trying to spent money before we get the money, before we know what our revenue is going to be. It's backwards from what every business and every household would do," said Bryant.
Some law makers say the process serves a purpose.
"I think it's necessary for us to stay on schedule to hear from the agency heads and see what the needs are and be in a position to address the actual revenue figures when we have them," said Rep. Percy Watson of Hattiesburg.
With Webb now expecting the state economy to grow by less than one percent this year and less than two percent next year, lawmakers are already starting to tighten a strained budget.
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