AG Hood Outlines Budget Needs in Letter to Legislative Leaders
JACKSON— Attorney General Jim Hood sent the attached letter to legislative leaders this week, outlining the fiscal 2018 budget needs for the Attorney General’s Office. AG Hood called on legislators to fund anticipated expenses to defend the state against the U.S. Department of Justice’s mental health lawsuit. He again warned that the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and Law Enforcement and Firefighters Disability Fund would run out of money without legislative action to support those vital services.
Here is the text of the Attorney General’s letter:
Our FY 2018 budget request consists of the following two funding sources; General Funds $32,550,031 and Federal Funds $5,577,872. The General Fund request includes funding to replace Other Special Funds lost as a result of the SB 2362 legislation passed during last year's session. Also, the Crime Victim Compensation assistance payments and Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Disability Benefit payments are now part of this General Fund request.
Since Other Funds and Spending Authority from assessments, legal services billings and other revenues have been eliminated as a funding source for this office, our General Fund appropriation is critical. Historically, these Other Funds have comprised about $23 million and funded 67% of this office.
I would like to emphasize the other programs that will now require General Funds rather than Special Funds to continue operations. They include Cyber Crime and Internet Crimes Against Children, Vulnerable Persons Investigation and Prosecution, Child Support Prosecution, State Agency Legal Representation, State Prosecutor Training and Education, Domestic Violence Training, Workers' Compensation Fraud Investigations, Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement, Medicaid Fraud Control federal match support, Consumer Protection, and Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi.
In addition to these programs, our FY 2018 General Fund request includes $750,000 to handle a portion of the costs associated with the Olmstead and Olivia Y litigation. As you are aware, we received a complaint filed by the United States Department of Justice against the State of Mississippi under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999). Due to the complex nature of this litigation, we have retained the services of Phelps Dunbar LLP to assist our Civil Litigation Division in representing the State. In the comparable Olivia Y. Case concerning insufficiencies in Mississippi's foster care system, the State has incurred $20 million in attorneys' fees, expenses and expert fees since FY 2005. We are
anticipating that the law firm of Baker Donelson, PC will continue to be retained as a federal court monitor in FY 2018 and will continue to maintain a presence at the Department of Human Services and work with the plaintiff firm.
The Legislative Budget Office (LBO) recommendation of $26,231,968 in General Funds is $6,318,063 below what is necessary to perform the vital duties of this office. Should this recommendation become our General Fund appropriation in FY 2018, we will be forced to suspend the Crime Victim Compensation and Law Enforcement Officers & Fire Fighters Disability payments until additional funding can be secured. This will cause a tremendous hardship on crime victims, first responders and their families. I respectfully ask for the funding necessary to keep these programs solvent. It is extremely important that we continue to meet the financial obligations of those who have become victims of violent crime and the first responders who protect our lives and secure our safety.
In addition, we will have to discontinue support to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Mississippi, an organization that trains forensic interviewers in child abuse and child sexual abuse cases and trains law enforcement officers and prosecutors about child abuse cases.
Further, the LBO General Fund recommendation will affect staffing levels and services in other critical programs including Vulnerable Persons Investigation and Prosecution, Cyber Crime and Internet Crimes Against Children, State Agency Legal Representation, Prosecutor Education, and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit if adequate federal matching funds are not available.
And finally, we will be unable to pay any legal bills submitted by the law firms handling the Olmstead and Olivia Y litigation. These payments will be delayed until a deficit appropriation can be obtained resulting in these firms having to wait eleven months for payment of any invoices.
In addition to my recommendations on budget, my general legislative agenda will include proposals to strengthen the state's human trafficking laws, clarify campaign finance rules, protect victims of sexual assault, provide an opportunity for Mississippians to vote before Election Day and help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic sweeping across our state. Passage of these proposals will not only promote good government, but will establish laws that will protect Mississippi citizens.
At your convenience, I would like to meet with you and answer any questions about my budget recommendations or my legislative proposals. Thank you for your consideration of these measures.