Legislative Update (3/26/19)
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) met for approximately 2 ½ minutes late yesterday afternoon and increased the revenue estimates for the current fiscal year (FY 2019), as well as FY 2020. This is the first step in next year’s budget being finalized. JLBC members did not ask any questions regarding the revised estimates. It appears that legislators are using reduced revenue growth estimates which minimize revenues to fund state services:
- FY 2019 revenue collections for February released by the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on March 8 reflected revenue collections were $129 million (or 3.93%) over the original estimate. Yesterday’s revised estimate assumes a loss of $4 million from that $129 million, and basically assumes no growth for the last third (March – June) of this fiscal year. This is highly unlikely, especially considering income taxes will be due during this period.
- When the JLBC released its FY 2020 Budget Recommendation in December, its FY 2020 revenue estimate reflected “an increase in anticipated revenue of 2.6% above the FY 2019 revenue estimate.” Yesterday’s revised FY 2020 estimate is built upon only1.3% growth. The FY 2020 estimate will drive the FY 2020 budget, including the teacher pay raise.
The legislature’s use of reduced estimates enables legislators to say that funds are not available for critical state services, including the teacher pay raise. When actual revenue collections come in above the estimate, excess revenues are deemed one-time funds and are deposited into the Rainy Day Fund. If the legislature used more accurate revenue estimates, their estimates would allow for the House’s $2,000 pay raise in FY 2020, as well as increases to other state services, including a pay raise for state employees.
It appears as if the legislative leadership has agreed on a flat $1,000 teacher pay raise for next year. While conferees have not been named publicly and a conference report has not been filed, Speaker Gunn told Associated Press reporter Jeff Amy yesterday that teachers will receive a flat $1,000 pay raise in FY 2020, with no mention of an additional raise in subsequent years. You will remember that the House passed SB 2770 with a $2,000 pay raise in FY 2020 and another $2,000 raise in FY 2021. When Amy contacted MPE Executive Director Kelly Riley for a statement in response to Speaker Gunn’s report of a $1,000 flat raise, she told him that the House leadership had caved on the House’s position. She shared that the House’s failure to fight for its position was not affirming to teachers and that she felt teachers would hold legislators accountable in upcoming elections. She also pointed out that a one-time $1,000 pay raise will not allow Mississippi to compete with surrounding states in the recruitment and retention of teachers.
Rumors abound near the end of the legislative session, but we are hearing this morning that the Senate is going to try to put the ESA voucher language into the teacher pay raise conference report. This could either kill the pay raise or provide an avenue for voucher expansion. Vouchers have no business in a bill providing a pay raise for public school teachers.
Please call the capitol switchboard (601-359-3770) to leave a message for your senator and representative and encourage them to:
- insist that accurate revenue estimates be used to develop the FY 2020 budget
- support the $4,000 pay raise ($2,000 in FY 2020 and $2,000 in FY 2021)
- oppose any increase in voucher funding or voucher expansion
Remind your legislator that he/she is there to represent the voters of your district and not the legislative leadership’s political agenda.