JACKSON, Miss. — A longtime Jackson County representative will lead Mississippi’s House Appropriations Committee, making him one of the Legislature’s key budget writers even as lagging revenue continues to trouble state finances.
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, on Monday named Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, to lead the committee. Read replaces Herb Frierson, a Poplarville Republican who resigned from his House seat June 30 to become state Revenue Commissioner. Naming Read means Frierson will be replaced by another south Mississippi member.
“I’m going to do the best I can to be fair and represent the whole state,” Read said Monday.
The 75-year-old Read works part-time as a pharmacist in Ocean Springs.
Gunn cites Read’s 25 years in the House and 21 years on the Appropriations Committee as reasons for making the appointment.
“John has more experience and knowledge of the appropriations process than anyone in the House of Representatives,” Gunn said in a statement.
Read was the vice chairman of the appropriations committee from 2000 to 2008 when the House had a Democratic majority.
State revenue collections have flagged in recent months. In the 2016 budget year, which ended June 30, Gov. Phil Bryant cut $65 million from the state budget in two rounds of cuts and withdrew $108 million from the state’s rainy day fund to make ends meet. Overall appropriations fell about $50 million in the new budget that began July 1, but fees and taxes collected by the Revenue Department came in $14 million below projections in July.
Because lawmakers have been blocked from taking $72 million from certain trust funds and made a $56 million error in budgeting, the 2016 spending plan started at least $128 million in the hole for a $6.4 billion budget.
“We’re still not hitting our projections,” Read said of the July shortfall. “We’re still down and we’re hoping the governor doesn’t have to make any more cuts between now and the first of the year.”
Until now, Read had served as chairman of the House Conservation and Water Resources Committee and vice chairman of the Rules Committee, which controls the flow of legislation in the House. House spokeswoman Meg Annison said she didn’t know when Gunn would name a new chair of Conservation and Water Resources.