Just as the Missouri Legislature prepares for a special session, Sen. Kit Bond and Jim Talent have come to the rescue with nearly $400 million in federal money from the new federal tax cut bill signed into law by President Bush this week. But by way of warning, state lawmakers should be very careful in using any of these one-time funds to balance the state government budget.
Republican lawmakers are lukewarm to the idea of using these new found revenues to balance a state budget far out of balance. It's unsure just how far the Democratic minority will go in using these funds either. For starters, I believe some of these federal dollars will be used to diminish the impact on the education cuts in Missouri. But that will provide only temporary relief because it appears the state budget will be in virtually the same sad shape next year as well. Some of those federal dollars will surely be held over to shore-up our faltering state economy.
Bond and Talent should be applauded for their efforts and their suggestions. But at the same time, lawmakers here must remain cautious in using money that's here today and gone tomorrow. I think that position has bipartisan support.
In other words, little has really and truly changed. The state economy is still in sad shape and an infusion of federal dollars will not change that. State officials must come to the realization that we've lived beyond our means and those days are over. Now the hard decisions must be made and those decisions will involve cuts in services and state spending. The alternative is higher taxes. I don't sense any growing support for higher taxes from any segment of the population.
Beginning next week the legislature will gather, explore the numbers and most likely present the same budget to Gov. Holden with few exceptions. If state residents are upset with the cuts in services then they need to voice their support for higher taxes. Thus far, I have yet to hear those voices. I doubt I will.