After Missouri voters rejected three tax increase proposals last year, you would have thought Gov. Bob Holden would get a sense that the time is not now right for any new tax burdens on Missouri residents. But Holden is threatening to veto a legislative budget plan that calls for additional cuts in spending instead of new taxes. It seems the Governor simply can't understand the concept of smaller government. I suspect voters will give him a better understanding come election day.
Like it or not, Missouri and other states are facing a massive revenue shortfall. So there are just two ways to address this changing flow of cash for state spending - you either cut expenses or you increase taxes. Holden wants more taxes and the GOP-lead legislature wants more cuts. The outcome remains in doubt and will undoubtedly until the final hour of the legislative session. In fact, a special session is likely this summer.
No one wants cuts in programs that benefit people. But no one wants to pay more taxes either. Thus the challenge of government is to find that balance between spending and taxing that provides the benefits people expect within a budget that taxpayers can afford. To hear Holden tell it, taxpayers are willing to fork over more money to fund state programs. To hear the Republicans tell it, taxpayers are near the end of their ropes and want more cuts in state spending.
Hardest hit in the spending cuts will be education funding. That's because in the great scheme of state spending, education cuts remain about the sole remaining item where lawmakers can save real dollars. Now few among us want less money for education. But it comes back to that balance - are you willing to pay more taxes to fund education? That's where we find ourselves.
Holden holds dear his plan for higher taxes on cigarettes. In fact, the good Governor sounds like a broken record when it comes to cigarette taxes. But by golly, to raise those taxes, voters must give their approval. And less than a year ago, voters said no to that plan.
Holden says he's "embarrassed" for the Republican-lead legislature because of their inability to arrive at a solution. Well Holden should know something about being "embarrassed," since his administration has been one snafu after another. Holden is clearly on the campaign trail right now, trying to kill competition within his party as election time rolls around. It's time for Holden to quit grandstanding and try to work with the legislature.
It looks to me like the legislature will raise some additional funds through changes in the gambling laws of Missouri but beyond that, it appears that state spending will be reduced. It's time for Gov. Holden to come on board and try to move this state forward during tough economic times.