It's no coincidence that government at all levels is facing increasing pressure on their budgets. Just look at the massive debate over the federal government and the plan for increased deficits. But obviously it goes far beyond that single issue. State government in Missouri is facing an unprecedented budget crunch that threatens to siphon money from education this year even more than last year. And then look at the city budget in Sikeston and you'll see the trend flows to every level of government.
The problem, as I see it, is one of both overspending and diminished revenues. But the argument could easily be made that it's the spending of government that has brought us to this point. In the defense of government, that spending is more often that not a reaction to demands from the public. The problem is not with runaway spending - it's a problem with meeting the wants of the citizenry and accomplishing those requests with limited funding.
Take the Sikeston city budget for example. As outlined in the past few weeks, our city is facing a problem because of added costs. Insurance costs have increased a whopping $185,000, according to the city and the cost of Public Safety funding has increased significantly as well. But don't blame city government. The spending for Public Safety is a reaction to massive requests from the public to address what was a growing crime problem in our community. So now when it's time to pay the piper, the budget crunch hits home.
State government is really no different. Missouri is facing a huge deficit that has already resulted in cuts in personnel and services. But that just barely touches the problem and more cuts are assured. Once again, many of these spending issues are beyond our control. Or at least for now.
The federal government is a different monster. But the theme is the same. I can't help but support the move by the Bush administration to reduce spending as much as possible on those issues that have been long ignored. The administration, for example, on Wednesday proposed sweeping changes in the Medicaid program that would among other changes, limit the number of emergency room visits that Medicaid would fund. That's a great start to address a runaway spending program.
The bottom line is this - the public at some point will have to pay for the additional services if, in fact, the majority feel those services are essential and needed. If not, look for program and service cuts. It's really just that simple.
I can tell you this much from the business world. In virtually every instance, it's easier to reduce spending than it is to generate revenue. That single fact drives success in the business community. And maybe now, government need to take a lesson from the private sector.