- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Budget officials recommended Thursday that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant withdraw $63.1 million from state savings to cover the 2016 deficit.

Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Chuck McIntosh said the agency’s deputy executive director, Flip Phillips, made the recommendation to Bryant on the final day of the budget year.

Lawmakers met in special session this week and authorized Bryant to withdraw as much as needed from the state’s rainy day fund, which currently holds $349 million, to cover 2016’s shortfall.

McIntosh said Bryant will order DFA to move the money from the rainy day fund, properly called the working cash stabilization fund, to the state’s general fund. The cash will be available over the next two months to pay bills as officials close out books.

The state planned to spend $6.4 billion in the 2016 budget year, even after Bryant made $65 million in mid-year cuts and withdrew a previous $45 million from the rainy day fund. Lawsuit settlements from Attorney General Jim Hood also helped bridge the gap.

Taxes collected by the Revenue Department finished $207 million below the amount budget writers initially estimated, according to figures released Thursday.

Although sales taxes and individual income taxes grew, they didn’t rise as much as projected. Corporate taxes fell by $117 million, with state revenue experts in part attributing the shortfall in part to businesses taking greater advantage of previous business tax relief than had been anticipated. Lawmakers passed something more than $350 million in business tax relief from 2012 to 2015, and Democrats continued to blame the shortfall on that policy during this week’s special session. Oil and natural gas taxes also fell year-over-year, because of low oil and gas prices.

Some money is collected by agencies other than the Revenue Department, and McIntosh said the Department of Finance and Administration had yet to verify overall state collections for the year, even though Phillips estimated the shortfall.

Overall appropriations will fall by about $50 million in the budget year that starts Friday, with most agencies seeing cuts. Effects are hard to estimate, though, because lawmakers took cash out of some special accounts that are usually outside of the regular budget. They also rolled some special accounts into the general budget and barred state agencies from billing other agencies for some services.

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