Attorney General Jim Hood tells the Daily Journal’s Bobby Harrison that the appropriation bill approved by the Legislature in Monday’s special session will provide the agency 28 percent less funding than the Legislature provided in the 2015 session for the fiscal year that started July 1 of that year.
However, trying to compare Hood’s claim of the largest cut of any other state agency is not easy.
In the 2016 session the Legislature passed the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act that substantially changed the state’s budgeting process. But the legislative leadership has not released information detailing how those changes impact each agency.
“A year and one-half later I do not understand how that information has not been made available to the Legislature and to the public,” said Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory told the Daily Journal.
Senate Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, the chief architect of the Budget Transparency and Simplification Act, said the information Bryan and others are seeking is being developed so that eventually people will be able to compare the budgets passed by the 2015 Legislature and the 2016 Legislature. But as Bryan pointed out, the 2017 Legislature already has completed its budget work for the upcoming fiscal, starting July 1.
The Budget Transparency and Simplification Act made two major changes to the way the state budget is constructed.
First, it stopped the practice of one state agency charging another state agency for services, such as the office of Attorney General charging for legal services provided to other agencies. During Monday’s special session the law was amended to make it easier for state agencies that receive federal funds to charge the federal government, not the state government, for services.
The other major change is that the legislation sweeps certain fees and assessments that were levied to support specific programs to the general fund to be divvied up among all state agencies.
It appears that the sweeps legislation will generate more than $115 million during the current fiscal year for the general fund.
But those programs that lost those fees and assessments still will be operated. The agency that administers those programs will have to do so within their existing general fund revenue.
The problem, some agency heads claim, is that because of sluggish revenue collections they are receiving fewer state general funds while also losing the fees and assessments they previously were receiving to pay for the special programs they have the responsibility of operating.
What do you think? Were the Cuts to the Attorney General’s Office about sound budgeting or was this a political cheap shot?
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