Missouri lawmakers will be trying to plug a half-billion-dollar gap in next year's budget when they convene their 2012 session on Wednesday.
State budget director Linda Luebbering says much of the hole is due to a reduction in federal money, such as stimulus funds and Medicaid payments. However, State Senator David Pearce (R, Warrensburg) suggests that that number is not set in stone.
“There are predictions anywhere from $400 to $900 million, (that could) be our shortfall for this upcoming year," Pearce said. "How do you fill that? It’s gonna be tough.”
Also straining the budget is the growth of health-care costs, including a rise in the number of Medicaid patients using home-based services.
House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey (R, Kansas City) says this is the year that Missouri's finances will "go over the cliff."
Silvey and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) both say they will make education funding the top priority in the budget. Schaefer says he hopes to focus cuts on social services and other state agencies.
Marvin Overby is a Political Science professor at the University of Missouri – Columbia. He suggests that Democratic Governor Nixon and the Republican majority’s desire to each get re-elected could lead to more cooperation on the state budget.
“They may decide that the special session didn’t leave anyone looking very good," Overby said. "They might, might, I stress might, underline and italicize might, arrive in Jefferson City more prepared to deal with each other, probably especially around those budgetary matters.”
The struggle over the role of tax credits will likely continue, although some lawmakers say they want to pass them in the form of several smaller bills instead of one giant bill.