I'm getting tired of writing about our knuckle-headed governor and by now, you're probably tired of reading about him as well. But on Friday, Gov. Bob Holden proposed to raise $279 million by upping the tax on cigarettes by 55 cents a pack. Now if I recall correctly, that's the very same plan Missouri voters rejected last year. Either Holden isn't listening to the voters or he's just flat-out run out of ideas to balance the state budget. Regardless, his plan displays a tragic lack of leadership and understanding.
I've written until I'm blue in the face concerning the budget crunch facing our state. Folks, we're a few hundred million dollars shy of balancing the state budget this year. But the Democrats and Republicans have widely different views on how to bridge that budget gap. Holden wants to raise taxes to fund the shortfall and the Republicans want to cut spending. A compromise will likely fall somewhere near the middle. But as long as Holden and company keep revisiting issues rejected by voters, the budget crisis will remain.
The state has already dipped into virtually every "rainy day" fund available to shore up the budget. But the time has arrived when either more taxes are required or more spending cuts are needed. Ask most Missourians and they'll tell you to cut spending. But the advocates of big government - led by Holden - will have none of that.
Holden wants to impose a higher tax on wealthy Missourians - those making $200,000 a year. But many believe that will simply drive some of that population to other states - most likely Florida - where the tax burden is much lower. The keystone of Holden's proposal remains the 55 cent increase on a pack of cigarettes. It could be argued that this makes the most sense until you consider the vote last year. There's no reason to believe the measure would pass this time around and I believe Holden knows that.
For those who believe that government should provide all services under the sun, just understand that those services come with a price. Maybe projects like the expansion and new construction of a Division of Family Services office in Sikeston should have been delayed until we have our financial house in order. But you'll never find a Holden clone who believes in less spending.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of paying taxes especially when an increasing percentage of those taxes are destined for those who pay no taxes whatsoever. It's a mistake to live beyond your means and yet Missouri and other states have been doing just that in recent years. Well the bankers have called and the note is due. We either pay more money or we cut services.
Holden will likely hold the state hostage until the very last minute. And then when the cuts are made, he'll point the finger at the Republican-controlled legislature for their failure to approve his tax increase plan. Don't believe this political rhetoric for one minute. Holden could end this crisis tomorrow by cutting state spending to balance the budget. Holden knows his chances for re-election hinge on the outcome of this budget debate. Thus far, the governor gets a failing grade for cooperation and innovation.