All experts agree that Missouri's upcoming budget crisis is for real. Current and former state officials have voiced growing concern that the state will fall $500 million short of budget needs in the coming year and that's on top of the massive cuts made this year. Given that dismal scenario, the administration is now conducting public hearings to gauge sentiments for cuts or tax increases. They are finding no support whatsoever for tax hikes.
Gov. Bob Holden wants to cut "corporate loopholes" which is the ever-popular process that appeals to the public but which also generates much lower revenues than the needs require. But that's OK. If there are some of these mysterious "loopholes" then, by all means, close them. Of course it makes you wonder why the loopholes exist in the first place. What the state needs to do - in my opinion - is a full-scale examination of each and every state program with an eye on accountability. I don't want to hear the garbage that says the state does this already. I will not accept that rhetoric because there is enough bloat in the budget to balance the books. And for those who want a list of these useless programs, I have a short and growing list.
Unlike some, I don't view a budget shortfall as an evil and disastrous event. It should give us pause to stop and reflect on how we spend taxpayer money and - just like our home budgets - eliminate those items we cannot afford or those that have marginal benefit.
But here's my fear. Gov. Holden has such a low leadership threshold that I fear his voice will be lost in the shuffle. With legislative control in the hands of the GOP, Holden will struggle with his pet projects while the Republican legislature pushes through their cuts. It will make for some interesting reading but it may not best serve the residents of this state.
Either way, look for cuts in state services or programs. That seems inevitable unless we can spend more of the tobacco settlement that we've already exhausted. The real question is where the cuts will hit and how deep will that be.