Remember the multi-million tobacco settlement money Missouri received as part of the massive federal agreement? Well over $125 million of those funds were used earlier this year to cover budget shortfalls. And Gov. Bob Holden has already withheld another $25 million that had been earmarked for a new state health lab. Today more of that money will disappear when Holden announces another round of budget cuts for the state.
Holden is poised to cut $200 million from the state budget and has pledged that no state workers will be laid-off as a result. That means cuts in equipment and programs and it also means that the tobacco money will slowly evaporate. Mark my word!
State tax revenues have fallen across the nation and Missouri is not exempt. With less funds, Missouri state leaders have been forced to reduce levels of service or postpone new programs. Actually in the long run this is not necessarily all that bad. Missouri government - like all others - has become bloated as tax revenues increased. These cutbacks may actually serve the state well in the long-run.
We're somewhat puzzled with Holden's position on state employees. We too don't want to necessarily see lay-offs but if that means important programs are reduced, then the state should take a second look at Holden's plan. Either way it will be a tight year for the Missouri Legislature as they try to balance services and people with declining revenues.
All state officials have said that elementary and secondary education will not suffer cuts. But that simply puts more pressure on other agencies. It is not an easy balance.
At some point the state may well have to look at a reduction in workforce. It will not be pleasant nor politically smart. But simple math says cuts are mandated and some of those cuts may have names attached. We'll wait and see.