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By The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi lawmakers are giving themselves a bit more wiggle room in writing a budget for the coming year.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee met Thursday and voted to add $97 million to the estimate of how much money the state can spend during fiscal 2014, which starts July 1.

The estimate is now slightly over $5.5 billion.

A group of experts, including the state economist and the state fiscal officer, recommended the $97 million increase based on a slight uptick in state economic activity.

House Speaker Philip Gunn says the higher estimate will make it easier for lawmakers to distribute money among state agencies. They face an early April deadline to deliver a budget to Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.

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