By the time you read today's column, the Missouri legislative session will be nearing completion. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers are able to approve enough taxes to offset a projected $167 million shortfall in state revenues. I have long thought there was a better idea.
I'm constantly puzzled when governmental bodies believe the only way to balance a budget is through higher taxes or other schemes that ultimately fall on taxpayers. I have long held the belief that there is sufficient waste in government to find $167 million in additional cuts in a $19 billion state budget.
We have little sway when it comes to education because those funds are beyond the reach. Health care for the poor and elderly too fall into that category. Transportation, law enforcement, etc. often suffer virtually no reductions. But there remains enough bloat in the state budget to reduce state spending enough to balance the budget.
Interestingly the lawmakers rejected a proposal to eliminate the loss limit on Missouri casino revenues that would have generated millions of dollars. And the cost would be paid only by those who frequent the gaming casinos. Instead lawmakers are considering higher taxes on businesses to raise some of the additional revenues they need. To me at least, that's a lousy option.
If there is no compromise today, Gov. Bob Holden has promised to call a special session of the legislature to balance the budget. He may well be given that opportunity by 6 p.m. today.
This year is a virtual repeat of prior years when the budget discussions boil down to the final hours of the legislative session. And I believe that fact alone is one of the aspects that turns people away from politics.
Far too few Missourians pay close attention to the legislature. I believe I know why. It's both frustrating and confusing to the public how the process works. It seems that common sense often takes a backseat in the legislative process. Surely there's a better way.