Lawmakers on Tuesday ordered state agency leaders to draft plans for major cuts to their budgets, in the event that a ballot initiative to force full funding of the state’s education formula passes in November.

The House Appropriations Committee summoned agency heads to the Capitol for a brief meeting Tuesday, and told them to put pencil to how they would cut their budgets by 7.8 percent or raise fees to cover cuts in the coming year. House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson said that if ballot Initiative 42 passes in November, forcing lawmakers to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, he wants to have a plan to cut other agencies to come up with the $250 million or more it would require.
“With a recession, we don’t always see it coming,” Frierson said. “With the ballot initiative, at least we see it coming. We can prepare for it. If it passes, my recommendation would be that we fully fund it next year. And I’m going to stand by my conservative principles — I’m not going to recommend a tax increase … I’m not going to recommend we use one-time money, whether that be BP money or the rainy day fund. So we need a plan for cuts.”

Frierson noted that fiscal 2016 revenue collections are also running about $30 million short of projections, but said that’s likely to improve.

Patsy Brumfield, with the group pushing for passage of Initiative 42 to force lawmakers to follow their own education funding law, called the meeting and directive to agency heads a political “scare” tactic.

After the meeting, some state agency leaders said they are unsure how they could handle such large cuts, but they plan to submit a plan by July 15 as instructed.

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