In the final week of the 2022 Legislative Session, the Senate adopted a $6.29 billion fiscal year 2023 total state support budget that includes $2.94 billion for K-12 education, which funds Mississippi’s historic teacher pay raise, boosting salaries by about $5,140 for teachers and giving $2,000 raises to assistant teachers. The Senate completed all business and adjourned Tuesday, April 5 until sine die on April 10, 2022.
The budget funds Institutions of Higher Learning at $852.8 million, and Community and Junior Colleges at $336 million. The Senate used about $1.5 billion of the state’s $1.8 billion American Rescue Plan Act funds in drafting the budget.
Under House Bill 530, a Class A teacher with a baccalaureate degree would start at $41,500. Teachers would receive annual step increases of between $400 and $600 at most every year, including in the first three years of teaching. House Bill 530 sought to remedy the fact that step increases are not currently provided in the base salary schedule until the third year of teaching even though many teachers leave the profession before Year 5. At pivotal five-year marks in a teacher’s career up to year 20, teachers would receive a larger increase between $1,200 and $1,350 based on their certification. At year 25, they would receive a $2,500 increase.
Adoption of Senate Bill 3056 appropriated $450 million in ARPA funds to the grant program established by the Mississippi Water Infrastructure Act of 2022 – (Senate Bill 2822). This grant program was created to assist cities, counties, and rural water associations in receiving matching grants for infrastructure repairs and improvements. The program will be administered by the Department of Environmental Quality.
House Bill 1630 Mississippi Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) budget bill, appropriated nearly $1.5 billion dollars to the department. MDOT budget spending authority is $1.43 billion. Most of this appropriation is set aside for construction and maintenance of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure throughout the state.
Some specific allocations in the bill are:
- $40 million to MDOT to match federal funds from the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act;
- $45 million toward accelerating MDOT’s three-year maintenance schedule; and
- $35 million toward accelerating MDOT’s “capacity” schedule, which relates to additional lanes for increased traffic capacity.
These funds are in addition to other one-time and recurring funds the Legislature provides for roads and bridges, including $80 million in recurring dollars from lottery proceeds.
Senate Bill 2159, created the Mississippi Flexible Tax Incentive (MFlex), which allows a credit against any state tax liability and combines several current incentives aimed at spurring economic development into one simplified option. The amount of the credit is calculated by considering the business’s investment in equipment and infrastructure, the number of full-time jobs created, and wages and benefits paid out to employees.
To participate in MFlex, a business must create at least 10 full-time jobs and make a capital investment of $2.5 million. Businesses qualifying for MFlex must report publicly the amount of investment, jobs created, average wage of employees, benefits provided, and other information.
Other bills passed included:
- Senate Bill 3027 an appropriation to the Department of Mental Health that includes $636,374 for community mental health Crisis Centers and $1,138,252 for physician services at community mental health centers.
- House Bill 1423 increases salaries of state appellate and trial judges and district attorneys and allows district attorneys to “employ one or more part-time legal assistants … to assist in the performance of the duties of the district attorney.” Legal assistants cannot be practicing attorneys. A companion measure, House Bill 1424 increases salaries of district attorney’s criminal investigators to $63,000.
- House Bill 1518 provided $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), funds to the Department of Finance and Administration to disperse $30 million to destination marketing organizations to assist in paying costs of certain marketing activities, providing $5 million in assistance to non-profit museums, and providing $5 million to Mississippi Main Street Association, as provided in House Bill 453.
- House Bill 1521 appropriated $6 million in ARPA funds to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning to finance the “Nursing and Respiratory Therapy Education Incentive Program,” to repay student loans for students entering the fields and to recruit professionals into the state.
- Senate Bill 3064 appropriated $10 million in ARPA funds for the Mississippi Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (MAICU) Grant Program Act of 2022.
- The Senate also approved $222.2 million in Local Improvement Projects in districts throughout the state.
The Senate on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, presented Jeff Rosamond, Director of Legislative Services, Senate Resolution 63, for 32 years of service to the Senate. Jeff is retiring later this summer. Jeff was employed as Senate Staff Attorney in December 1990 and was promoted to the position of Director of the Senate Legislative Services Office in August 2018, serving for four years in that capacity.
Confirmations to various boards and agencies were also approved.