JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Leading Mississippi lawmakers are about to embark on their final round of talks to set a $5.6 billion budget for the coming year.
The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees said Wednesday they’re close to agreement on most big-ticket items, including education.
Negotiators face an April 28 deadline agree on detailed spending for everything from schools to highways to agriculture programs. Once they reach final deals, they’ll file dozens of budget bills. Then, the full House and Senate face an April 30 deadline to adopt those bills.
The state’s 2013 fiscal year begins July 1.
The money minders said they’re just a few million dollars apart on funding for public health.
“That seems to be what this session of legislature appropriations is boiling down to, is public health issues and funding, mostly Medicaid,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville.
Frierson said legislators are trying to find an additional $31 million for the coming year for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled. He said they’re also trying to fill a $14.8 million budget gap for the University of Mississippi Medical Center for the current fiscal year ending June 30. The shortfall is for the medical center’s portion of Medicaid funding.
At the end of February, Mississippi’s Medicaid program enrolled just over 640,000 people, or about 21% of the state’s residents.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, said setting the Medicaid budget is tricky every year because officials use their best estimates of how many Medicaid patients will be ill and how many will need certain types of medical procedures.