Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Senator defends budget "cuts"

Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke (R-Who Cares) issued the following statement about the "cuts" to the Mississippi Department of Mental Health:

This week several articles have been written and comments made suggesting the legislature has done a disservice to the state by ignoring the needs of the Department of Mental Health. My colleagues and I are fully aware of the funding needs of this agency and to say we have been negligent in the appropriations process could not be further from the truth.

Since I became Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee in 2012, we have increased state support spending for the Department of Mental Health by more than $17 million. Most of this increase has been used to improve the care provided in the state’s community based programs.

In this coming fiscal year’s budget which begins on July 1, Mental Health will in fact have a decrease in its state support revenue of $4.2 million. However, what has not been reported clearly is the agency will reduce its interagency fees in the amount of $5.6 million. These are fees paid to other state agencies for costs such as rent, legal fees, and technology support that have been eliminated as part of their budget. The net effect is this agency will have a net increase in funding of $1.4 million. Thus a claim that programs and services will be drastically eliminated must be based on some other reason we are not aware of.

For future budgets, we might suggest using the line-item method in drafting the agency’s appropriation bill. In this method, the legislature is very specific in its funding of each category instead of giving a lump sum for the agency to spend at its discretion. If we had done so this tight budget year, one can be assured the following expenditures which were included in the request would not be included:

$101,739 for Out of State Travel
$1,399,516 for Office Furniture
$114,273 for “food for business meetings”
$4,121,002 in spending on a “Procurement Card”, which is not itemized in their current budget

Lastly, like many agencies, the Department of Mental Health utilizes contract workers. In some instances, this can be a cost effective way to fill gaps in lieu of hiring a full time employee. However, it seems that when an agency has more than 500 contract workers, it’s a bit much and thus blocks many individuals seeking full time employment with the Department of Mental Health.

The budget for the State of Mississippi cannot be viewed through a singular lens by neither the legislature nor the public. There are many agencies providing valuable services to the citizens of this state, many funded at a level below what we would like. We also believe each agency is sincere in their requests for funding as they and their advocates fight for their share of the pie. The truth of the matter is that each agency and each advocate is not so concerned about funding levels at other agencies. However, it is our job in appropriations to be concerned with every agency and the mission with which they have been charged. The Attorney General claimed we are being negligent with the level we have funded Mental Health. I would ask him as I asked everyone this year seeking a funding increase to one particular item: Whose budget do we cut further to get you where you want to be? K-12? Community and Junior Colleges? Institutions of Higher Learning? Medicaid? Or perhaps not fully fund the new Family and Children’s Services? During the session we heard no such recommendation, from the Attorney General or others, to reduce their own budget by $4 million and send it to Mental Health.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Am I reading that correctly? Diana Mikula sought $4,121,002 in non-scrutinized blank check spending?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Senator Clarke for standing up to the Mental Health gang that cry the sky is falling and they actually got an increase when every other agency took a hit. We have not forgotten how DMH tried to play us all for fools on OH. They should have cut them $10M.

Anonymous said...

She didn't just seek it, she did it apparently.

Anonymous said...

KF you put the spotlight on DMH last year and exposed much of the complete shit show that was going on there. Don't know if it had any affect on there funding but I sure hope so. The wheel always turns. Good job. Somebody was paying attention. Will Longwitz you are also to be thanked. If you had not taken the lead the nonsense going on there would not have gotten the attention it finally did. Good job guys! Poetic justice if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

DMH is like Jackson Public Schools (JPS) in that they are yelling fire to sensationalize the "effects" of budget cuts, rather than quietly cutting the fat our of their operations. It is good to see Senator Clarke stand up to this. However, the Senator -- who is chairman of the most powerful Senate committee -- still has a lot to learn about how to use power. He should take the $4 million out of next year's AG budget and put it into DMH.

Anonymous said...

Just for my own curiosity... How did Senator Clarke vote on campaign finance reform? I only ask because one of the issues at hand was the fact the legislators skirted the rules by putting everything on a credit card. By doing so, they avoided having to "itemize" their spending and could "lump' everything into one payment.

Anonymous said...

Hard to put all of that into a tweet. Glad JJ's around to provide a place for more in-depth discourse than we've, unfortunately, become accustomed to.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you go look it up @3:00 PM?

Anonymous said...

So wait, Health doesn't have to pay $5.6 Million in 'interagency fees' so that's not a cut to them? That's true, but it IS a cut to those other agencies! Did they account for all those ineragency fees not being payed to the other agencies in their budgets, or is it okay to cut other agencies by that much just not Mental Health because that's the subject being complained about?

Secondly, $4 Million on a procurement card that isn't itemized? It's a credit card! By default they can tell you what it was used for, you just have to ask. This could be important purchases, or it could be graft, but you can only know if you look into what is being bought. Did they even try to look?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, no reporting on Mr. Burton. Of course, he is a republican just like you KingFish.

Anonymous said...

@4:50 PM Robbie Bell STILL hasn't been charged. Hmmmmm. ReQuest you contact JiM HooD and ask WHY.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 4:01 - try to keep up. The appropriations process this year changed the way they were doing business - and it has been in all the news, blogs, bitching and complaining. They quit interagency transactions: rent, IT services, etc. And they worked it across the agencies that were receiving them. They aren't the dummy that you make yourself out to be - they didn't stop the payments but not recognize the effect on the other end.

But it hasn't stopped agencies like MDMH from trying to make the claim that they were 'cut'. Like any bureaucracy, they don't like change and they don't want to be challenged.

Anonymous said...

The legislature has been finding substantially more in interagency fees than the agencies can find and cutting by the legislative amount identified rather than the actual amount paid in prior years, do not ends up being a net cut because the agency never actually paid that amount to other agencies. It's funny money and accounting gymnastics...

Anonymous said...

If it's "accounting gymnastics" then the Dept of Mental Health is the 1996 women's team bc their smoke and mirrors are one of the main reasons this bill was passed.

Anonymous said...

The irony of a legislator demanding line item justifications of agency spending when the legislature won't vote to require their own line item explanations of their use of campaign dollars.

Anonymous said...

Whitfield got 125 million and 1900 full time employees last year. Yet, can't do anything that actually deals with mentally ill patients/defendants. So the whining and bitching from them is laughable. But the idea that the legislature, which missed 57 million dollars in its budget, being able to track interagency transactions and make sure it all balances out is equally, if not more laughable.

Anonymous said...

Now about that campaign finance reform...

Anonymous said...

Sock puppet convention!

Dozes. Hits Innocent Tree. said...

"Pride in Perfection. May we help you?"

"Clinton Body Shop?"...."Terry Burton here...."

Anonymous said...

The method of budgeting in the State is ridiculous.
The legislature has needed to implement sound accounting practices for decades.
Budgeting in the State of Mississippi is a game of smoke and mirrors.
At the end of each fiscal year, agencies are in a mad dash to use up every penny that hasn't been spent.
The budgets submitted to the legislature are not verifiable and the requests for more money are seldom based in any real notion of actual costs but are estimates dreamt up out of thin air.
The practice of one agency paying another has become the theatre of the absurd.
For example, if a State board needs the advice of another agency, they pay for the advice of another state employee who is already being paid to give advice to state government. That employee is not being paid more money to give that advice and is usually salaried and thus not being paid overtime to give advice. Indeed, he or she is not usually working overtime to give the advice. The estimate of how much money will be needed to get advice for the coming year is just a guess. There are no " new" expenses. The need for advice or sometimes just information that already exists is used as a justification to hire another employee in future budgets even though existing employees managed to give the advice without added time or expense.
If the above is impossible to understand , it's because current budget practice are inexplicable and totally lacking in sound fiscal controls.

Anonymous said...

Cut IHL and junior college athletics state support. Ole Miss and MSU would be fine. Universities should not underwrite athletics via student fees or state money.

If they are viable, they will pay for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Tell us something we don't already know @6:51. Are you new here?

Through A Looking Glass said...

6:51...remember 'In-Kind Contributions'? Buzz phrase of the seventies.

If you give me a dollar and I look at it for fifteen minutes, I've got two dollars and you owe me one.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:13, State & Ole Miss use little to no state $ nor student fees to pay for athletics (depends on the year). The other state universities are a different story. And don't get me started on the JUCOs.

Anonymous said...

In the House, Philip Gunn only asked for a voice vote so the members could hide behind it. Now seems every legislator says they support finance reform. We shall see next year.

Anonymous said...

7:13, very little state money goes to athletics. football carries the load and pays for all the minor sports like women soccer, women basketball, track & field etc. In fact, the net effect is that athletics actually bring more money to the Universities than they take.

Anonymous said...

Only reason y'all want to close down the JUCOs is because you are racists and LGBT phobics.

Anonymous said...

Clarke is a political lap dog.

Anonymous said...

Things Sen. Clarke did not mention:

1. From FY 2012 to FY 2013 (the first budget year Sen. Clark was chair of senate appropriations) Mental Health’s general fund budget was cut $25 million.

2. The FY 2017 general fund appropriation is $13 million below FY 2012 budget.

3. Mental health may not pay $5.6 million to other agencies but he fails to mention how much mental health will NOT get in interagency payments from other agencies.


Anonymous said...

1. From FY 2012 to FY 2013 (the first budget year Sen. Clark was chair of senate appropriations) Mental Health’s general fund budget was cut $25 million.

2. The FY 2017 general fund appropriation is $13 million below FY 2012 budget.


Link?

Anonymous said...

11:01

2011 Legislative Session for FY 2012
Senate Bill 3055
Mental Health General Fund appropriation $235,348,114

2012 Legislative Session for FY 2013
Senate Bill 2980
Mental Health General Fund appropriation $210,431,679

2016 Legislative Session for FY 2017
Senate Bill 2888
Mental Health General Fund appropriation $222,144,993

If you want to see for yourself, these bills are available at
http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/sessions.htm


Anonymous said...

Not 100% sure, but I believe there is something in the IHL bylaws that says public colleges in MS cannot use state money for athletics.

USM does use some of the student fee $ for athletics. We have been put at a disadvantage because our competition (huge commuter schools in Florida and Texas) make much much more off student fees and use that toward their ath budget.

Anonymous said...

Clarke is a political weakling trying to make a name for himself. I'd rather watch grass grow than listening to this guy. The words "null" and "zero" come to mind when I think of him.

Anonymous said...

It's inaccurate to say that the legislature "made up" the cuts for rent, etc., on the back end. DFA's budget went down significantly, not up, and that's where rent payments would go. So how will they pay for building security, power, water, etc? It makes the budget less transparent -- not more. These are real costs to operating an agency and the legislature decided not to pay for it and called it "savings." The interagency payments don't cost taxpayers materially more money - it's just where it's accounted for in the budget.

Instead of creating their own budget gimmicks, the legislature should be focused on the hard policy issues on mental health, like institutionalization (which Mississippi still does a lot of) versus home and community based care, which can cost less and be more effective. But that would mean making the hard decisions about closing institutions.

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