Mississippi attorney general seeks to ease his tight budget

Published 9:39 am Thursday, June 1, 2017

By Emily Wagster Pettus

Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is urging lawmakers to restore a portion of the money they have cut from his budget the past two years.

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Hood said Wednesday that the cuts are hindering work in his office, including efforts to prosecute people who exploit children and commit other crimes online.

The Legislature begins a special session Monday to complete the final parts of the overall $6 billion state budget. They need to fund the attorney general’s office and the Department of Transportation for the year that starts July 1.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who called the special session and sets the agenda, said Wednesday on Twitter that he hopes lawmakers will finish their work quickly.

Disputes between the House and Senate killed budget proposals for the attorney general’s office and the Department of Transportation during the regular session that ended in late March.

Hood is the only Democrat in statewide office, and Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature.

During a news conference, Hood said some lawmakers have been too eager to kill “the beast” of government by cutting budgets for a wide range of services, including mental health care and his own office, without examining the consequences.

“They’re on this ‘mission from God,’ as Dan Aykroyd said in the ‘Blues Brothers.’ You know, they’re on a ‘mission from God’ to say, ‘We killed the beast,’” Hood said. “They don’t tell people the rest of the story, which is there are vital programs to victims and law enforcement that are desperately needed and needed more so now than at other times, especially on cybercrime.”

Mississippi tax revenues have fallen short of expectations most months for the past year and a half, and Bryant has had to make multiple rounds of budget cuts. Lawmakers have also enacted tax cuts.

Hood said a structural change to the state budget a year ago has caused his office and other agencies to lose federal money. He said some budget writers failed to grasp that.

“People that don’t actually investigate and understand how government works, all they think is, ‘It’s bad and we want to cut it.’ They don’t understand it,” Hood said before turning to a biblical reference that did not directly refer to lawmakers.

“It’s kind of like when they were screaming, ‘Crucify Jesus,’” Hood said. “You know, they didn’t really understand what they were doing.”