State agencies bracing for another tight budget year - - Jackson, MS

State agencies bracing for another tight budget year

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Tightening of the belt isn't a surprise to lawmakers or agencies. The money coming into the state isn't enough to up increase agency budgets. In fact, many could be facing cuts.

Several agencies recently told lawmakers they're operating at a bare bones level, but the new recommendation by the Legislative Budget Committee would put some of them at even lower funding.

"It's better to make everybody mad than it is to make one or two mad," said Rep. John Moore. "I think we've done a good job of pushing all the agencies to a point where they're having to be efficient."

Among the recommendation that lawmakers say is just a starting point, the crime lab and medical examiner's office would take cuts. Staffing is already down 20% at the state crime lab. Yet, they're dealing with even more cases.

"This year we're going to have one of the highest, if not the highest, homicide rate that the state's ever experienced," said Crime Lab Director Sam Howell. "That affects almost every division in this laboratory. We just don't have the resources to produce the reports and the results in the timely manner needed for arrests and prosecutions."

And the backlog impacts more than just this staff and facility.

"As we slow down and even come to a halt in some instances, we affect the entire criminal justice system," added Howell.

Howell is hoping lawmakers will consider adding to, rather than cutting, their budget in the coming year.

"At some point, they're going to have to look at what effects the pubic safety of everybody, the public health of everybody. And those agencies are going to have to get a priority at some point," explained Howell. "You just can't treat everybody equally across the board when public safety is the issue."

To view the full Legislative Budget Committee Recommendation for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, click here.

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