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Mississippi Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said Sunday that he has tested positive for coronavirus. (Photo courtesy Philipgunn.com)

9.22.20 – Magnolia State

Mississippi legislators will probably return to the Capitol before Oct. 5 to examine how the state is spending coronavirus relief money it received from the federal government, Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday.

Gunn said the House and Senate will evaluate “what has been spent, what has not been spent and do we need to shift some of those dollars around.”

Like other states, Mississippi received federal money for a variety of programs. Mississippi allocated $300 million to aid small businesses that had to close temporarily because of the pandemic, although some applicants have said they are still waiting for a response from the state.

Gunn said he was planning to speak to Mississippi Development Authority officials about whether the Legislature needs to put more money toward helping small businesses.

Gunn spoke Monday during an online forum sponsored by Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.

He said Mississippi tax collections have been running well ahead of expectations during the budget year that began July 1. Figures released by the Legislative Budget Office show that sales tax collections are well ahead of where they were for July and August of last year.

Mississippi legislators cut the budgets of most state agencies and programs by 3% to 5% going into the current year because of economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“We cut all across the board … just because of the downturn in the economy and being very frugal with our budgeting,” Gunn said.

Working on a state budget takes months, and agencies have already submitted spending requests for the year that begins next July 1. On Thursday, Gunn and other members of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee will hold public hearings, and leaders of a few big agencies will make presentations and answer questions about their requests.