Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri House has passed a $23 billion state budget for next year.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle conceded that passing a budget filled with millions in cuts to education and social services was a grim task. But State Representative Tim Jones (R, Eureka) said it could have been a lot worse.
"Illinois' budget gap this year is 44 percent...I do not know where you even begin to close a gap such as that," Jones said.
Jones added that Missouri's budget gap is smaller, thanks to conservative governing by the GOP majority. But State Representative Sarah Lampe (D, Springfield) says Republicans should not rely on cuts alone to balance the budget.
"Why wouldn't we, as a state, have the discussions about improving revenue, increasing the revenue stream in some way, even just gathering the taxes that are due the state of Missouri?" Lampe said.
She continued, "Whether you talk about a tax increase or not, let's look at all the possibilities for revenue before we start looking at cuts."
Lampe says that should have included a review of tax credits, as suggested by the Nixon administration.
The 13 bills that make up the state budget are now in the hands of the Missouri Senate. President Pro-tem Charlie Shields (R, St. Joseph) says more cuts are likely.
"We started in on that budget process, and we thought there was going to be an amount of revenue available to the state that now is not there...so the Senate probably had more lead time on that, and will be able to make some additional cuts, although the House is certainly doing their share of budget trimming right now, it looks like," Shields said.
About half of the $200 million in cuts passed by the House were to K-12 schools, which nearly matches Governor Jay Nixon's proposed funding level for public schools next year.
Nixon has proposed eliminating $500 million from the FY 2011 budget.