Mississippi needs to manage its money better

Published 6:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mississippi’s credit outlook has been lowered to negative by Moody’s, the ratings agency.

The negative outlook, according to Moody’s, “reflects ongoing revenue weakness and below-average economic growth. The state resorted to use of reserves to address revenue under performance in fiscal 2016.”

Mississippi dipped into its rainy day fund three times this fiscal year and the state waived its 2 percent set-aside in the budget the past three years. So it’s no wonder Moody’s has a negative outlook on Mississippi.

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At the moment, the negative outlook isn’t raising the cost of borrowing for the state. That’s because Mississippi still qualifies for the same bonds. But that could change if state leaders don’t get a firm grasp on the situation.

Primarily, lawmakers must protect the 2 percent set-aside to build up reserves and they must avoid using rainy day funds for one-time budget bailouts. A state, after all, is no different from a household: exhaust all reserves and the risk of financial catastrophe rises.

State leaders don’t have any choice in matter, since if Mississippi’s actual bond rating were to drop, costing the state more in borrowing, a bad situation would get much worse.

Mississippi needs to break its habit of raiding rainy day funds and get state’s credit outlook back in good standing.