The legislature will convene on Tuesday to begin a 90-day session, unlike last year’s session that was scheduled for 125 days because it followed an election.
“The budget will be tough and talked about a lot this year,” said Carpenter, the Republican representing eastern Alcorn County and almost all of Tishomingo County. “State revenue collections remain down, so we will need to figure out what to do to fix those problems.”
District 4 Rep. Jody Steverson said a majority of state agencies will likely see their budgets cut in order to make ends meet.
Steverson represents all of Tippah County and only a few boxes in Alcorn County.
He shares Alcorn duties with Carpenter, District 3 Rep. William “Tracy” Arnold and District 2 Rep. Nick Bain.
“With revenues not meeting projections over the last several months, I anticipate the governor will have to make mid-year budget cuts,” said Steverson. “This will also mean that next year’s budget might be even less than this year’s.“
Although the 2016 session was laced with tax cuts, lawmakers are vague about whether they will propose other tax changes in 2017.
The 2016 package passed by lawmakers will phase out Mississippi’s $260-million-a-year corporate franchise tax and cut $145 million in income taxes, raising the threshold for paying state income taxes to $10,000. Those reductions begin in 2018. The package will also lower self-employment taxes, cutting $10.2 million over three years beginning in 2017.
Like other local lawmakers, Carpenter and Steverson agree a change to public education funding will happen this session.
“I hope to see level funding for education with a reward-type system setup for good performing districts,” said Carpenter.
Steverson said he’s looking forward to hearing the findings from EdBuild, the nonprofit research firm the state contracted with last summer.
“EdBuild held hearings throughout the fall and made a few site visits around the state,” said Steverson, a Ripley native. “We will be presented proposed changes in the early part of the session. While we all want a more transparent formula that accurately reflects all of the resources we put into public education, any proposed revision will be judged on how it affects each of our individual school districts.”
Stricter mental health laws continue to be important to Carpenter.
“I want to work on drug abuse and mental health in this state,” he said. “We have got to come up with a fix to make some tougher laws.”
The Tishomingo County native is also excited to see new changes coming to the state handed down by the new presidency.
“I think the state will have more control over things that the state should have control over,” said Carpenter. “I can’t wait to see what happens on that front.”
Carpenter also mentioned the possibility of legislation that could help fund the historic Jacinto Courthouse, as well as new announcements in the coming months regarding new industry opening at Yellow Creek Port in Iuka.
(Capitol Connections by staff writer Zack Steen will appear every Sunday through May 2017. The weekly feature will include news and notes from the Mississippi Legislature.)