" ... sacrifices in tough times must also be shared on some equal basis. "
Jefferson City was in the spotlight Wednesday with two group of protesters rallying to get the attention of the Missouri legislature. But the irony in the rally clearly illustrates the concerns over Missouri's tight budget picture. On the one end of the spectrum, doctors from across the state staged a rally to draw attention to spiraling medical malpractice costs. At the same time the state's poorest residents staged a protest to voice their concerns over cuts in general relief assistance from $80 a month to $9.
All in all it was probably not the best day to serve in the legislature.
The two widely different groups represent the tough position facing Missouri government this year. With tax revenues falling rapidly the state is scrambling to make cuts or generate new money to balance the state budget. But when it comes time for cuts, all segments of society will have to shoulder some of the share.
The doctors are urging passage of a measure that would limit medical liability in Missouri similar to legislature approved in other states. Without the cap, doctors face medical malpractice premiums that have doubled and tripled in some cases. That has forced some doctors to quit seeing Medicaid patients because the federal reimbursement in often below their costs.
The low-income residents are telling lawmakers that the cuts to their general relief refund are forcing many to change their lives including going homeless. Even though the cuts are minimal, the poor say that small amount makes a big difference in their lives.
The long and short of the issue is this. When government at any level is forced to make cuts, those reductions impact everyone in the state. That is actually the way it should be.
But it illustrates that sacrifices in tough times must also be shared on some equal basis. This year that sacrifice may well include public education, according to the Governor's office.
The weeks ahead are critical for our state. We'll learn just where these cuts are going to strike and then we can better tell how balancing the state budget will impact our lives. It may not be pretty. But it's the best system we have available.