The 2017 regular session of the Mississippi legislature opened on Tuesday, January 3, at noon, and is scheduled to run 90 days. Legislative deadlines are split between general bills and money (appropriation and revenue) bills. The general bill deadlines occur first, meaning that those bills are the first discussed in committees and acted on by the legislature. Numerous general bills of interest to MSU, both good and bad, have been filed. Many that would have been detrimental to MSU and other institutions of higher learning have died and several have been amended to alleviate our concerns. Your legislative committee is following those general bills that are still alive to make sure they are not amended during the process in a manner that would not be in the best interest of MSU.
Revenue and appropriation bills are on a later deadline schedule and most have not even been introduced yet. When they are introduced, we will monitor them, and when appropriate, seek amendments. The IHL Board approved a four-year bond plan that takes into account the needs of all eight institutions and the legislature funded the first year of that plan last year, with some funding for the second year. We are pushing for the final three years of this plan to be funded so university leaders can plan with some certainty for the future. Investment in these capital projects allow MSU to meet the growing infrastructure needs and have some of the best academic and research facilities in the ever competitive higher learning market. When it comes to appropriated funds, the picture is bleak with state revenues failing to meet estimates for the past several months. The governor has already made two rounds of cuts this fiscal year, and a third is expected soon. Funding at the same level as last fiscal year would be a small victory, but is unlikely. While cuts to some parts of the MSU appropriations can be made up with tuition or funds from other sources, the agriculture units cannot absorb cuts. We are at the point that any further cuts in the ag units will likely cause a reduction in personnel and/or programs. MSU leadership and other partners have made this point in budget hearings, so we are all hands on deck to protect what we have.
In addition, your legislative committee is working to pass legislation that clarifies the MSU Foundation is exempt from ad valorem taxation of real property, as well as to provide some tax clarification for the residential portion of the Akin Village development.
Winter 2017 Report provided by Bucky Murphy, Vice Chair Government Affairs
Bully Bloc is a non-partisan political action committee not affiliated with Mississippi State University.