- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Department of Public Safety is requesting a $46 million budget boost in the coming year.

That would be a 26 percent increase, from $176 million to nearly $223 million. It would pay for a variety of items, such as up-to-date Crime Lab equipment, and employees such as new state troopers and a new worker to receive bodies during nights and weekends at a Gulf Coast morgue.

Department leaders, including deputy administrator Ken Magee, gave a detailed explanation of their wish list Thursday when they appeared before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

Legislators made no promises about funding, but they complimented DPS on the thorough presentation.

“I want to commend you on your level of preparation today. It is refreshing,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Thursday.

It was a contrast to last year, when Commissioner of Public Safety Albert Santa Cruz offered few details about spending. Santa Cruz set a friendlier tone Thursday at the start of the meeting, when he thanked lawmakers for setting aside money a few months ago to train a new group of state troopers. He said a training class begins Nov. 9.

The Budget Committee is holding public hearings this week to start planning for fiscal 2016, which begins July 1.

DPS is one of several agencies requesting additional money. While the state economy is growing at a moderate pace, lawmakers say they expect to receive requests for hundreds of millions of dollars more than the state will have available to spend - a typical budget-writing scenario. The current state budget is just over $6 billion.

The 14-member Budget Committee and Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will release separate budget recommendations in December. The election-year legislative session begins in January, and the House and Senate are scheduled to adopt a final budget by early April.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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