Mississippi’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Mississippi’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2019 were $22.0 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2019 were $2.1 trillion, ranging from $4.5 billion in South Dakota to $311.3 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, Mississippi’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $26.2 billion in FY 2017 (the most recent year census data were available), or $8,748 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $9,446.
Mississippi’s largest spending areas per capita were public welfare ($2,130) and elementary and secondary education ($1,546). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
Mississippi’s combined state and local general revenues were $26.6 billion in FY 2017, or $8,914 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $9,592. Mississippi uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, Mississippi’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($1,979), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and general sales taxes ($1,165).
Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, was elected in 2019 with 52 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2023.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives (76 Republicans to 45 Democrats and 1 independent) and Senate (36 Republicans to 16 Democrats). Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in Mississippi. The entire legislature is up for election in 2023 because both representatives and senators serve four-year terms.
Mississippi’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
Mississippi uses an annual budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget and is prohibited from carrying a deficit over into the following year. Mississippi further limits both spending and revenue growth with binding rules that require a legislative supermajority or vote of the people to override. A three-fifths supermajority is also required for legislation that raises taxes or revenue. The state also limits total authorized debt incurred by the state.
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
Mississippi’s recent fiscal debates
- In 2018, Mississippi approved a state lottery. At the time, Mississippi was one of only six states without a lottery. The legislation did not have a fiscal note, but supporters claimed the lottery would raise $40 to $80 million annually. Although Mississippi was one of the last states to approve lottery gambling, it was one of the first states to accept legal sports betting. In 2017, the legislature passed legislation meant to regulate fantasy sports games, but the language used was so broad that when the Supreme Court allowed sports betting, the state’s casinos were able to create legal sports books. The state collected only a few million dollars in its first year of legal sports betting.
- In 2016, Mississippi passed what a local paper described as the largest tax cut in state history. The legislation phases out Mississippi’s franchise tax, a tax on a corporation’s value of capital employed or assessed property values in the state, until the tax is eliminated in 2028; it also increased the amount of income exempt from the state’s individual income tax. The legislation did not have a fiscal note, but Mississippi collected $260 million a year from the franchise tax before the phase-out began.
- Mississippi is one of 14 states that have not accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The Urban Institute estimates that if Mississippi had accepted Medicaid expansion, it would have received 29.6 percent more federal Medicaid funds ($1.3 billion) and increased its state spending on Medicaid 6.5 percent ($93 million). As with other states, Urban estimates that savings from Medicaid expansion (e.g., lower spending on uncompensated care) would fully or largely offset the additional direct state spending. Governor Reeves opposed all versions of Medicaid expansion during the 2019 campaign.
Mississippi’s current budget
In November 2018, then-governor Phil Bryant released his FY 2020 budget. Governor Bryant’s budget announcement led with his recommendation to not cut any agency’s budget. One program receiving more funds was the state’s pension system, in part because of a decision to increase employer contributions. Governor Bryant’s 2019 state of the state address highlighted his proposal to spend $50 million on teacher salary increases.
For more on Mississippi’s budget, see
Mississippi’s economic trends
Mississippi’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $39,368 in 2019, ranking 50th among the states. It was below both the national average of $56,663 and the Southeast regional average of $49,145. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $43,567 in 2018, ranking 50th among the states and below the national average of $60,293. Mississippi’s poverty rate was 20.8 percent in 2018 (five-year estimate), above the national rate of 14.1 percent.
Although Mississippi’s averages tell a story about the entire state, Mississippi is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Greenville’s median household income was $29,501, and its poverty rate was 35.1 percent; the city of Madison’s median household income was $106,849, and its poverty rate was 3.3 percent.
Mississippi’s unemployment rate has historically been above the national average and particularly spiked following Hurricane Katrina. In recent years, Mississippi’s unemployment rate has been among the highest in the country. (See how COVID-19 is affecting state employment and earnings data.)