The sobering impact of a new year struck today as Missouri state officials announced a series of budget cuts and layoffs designed to address a projected $300 million shortfall in state revenues. It was not exactly the way to start a new year.
But wait, there's more. Today's cuts are likely not the end to the belt-tightening in Jefferson City. A slowing economy and lingering effects from the Sept. 11 tragedy still have a grip on Missouri and other states. Starting next week the Missouri Legislature will wrestle with these new realities.
But belt-tightening is not always a bad thing. Some could argue that state government was bloated in the area of personnel and thus, work force reductions may have some long-term positive impact. But try telling that to a person downsized by the cuts.
Two areas of state government that are taking up more and more of your tax dollars are prisons and Medicaid. These two areas alone fuel the growth of spending far too much.
I believe the government at the state and federal level needs a full examination of the Medicaid program from top to bottom. I know personally of abundant abuses by low-income Medicaid recipients that make you fighting mad. I was told last week of a Medicaid recipient here in Sikeston who spends time in the hospital monthly to avoid payments to her drug dealers. It seems that the hospital is off-limits to financial demands from drug dealers and thus, has become this Medicaid recipient's safe haven.
I also know of millions of dollars spent on extensive infant care because the mother had absolutely no prenatal care, was a drug abuser, etc. These examples cost taxpayers billions annually. The abuse should be stopped and the lug on taxpayers would diminish.
Gov. Holden and the legislature have a tremendous challenge ahead. And it won't be easy for anyone in this financial debate.