This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee continued work on the state’s budget. The state’s budget is made up of 13 separate bills. Each bill represents a different aspect of state government. These bills start in the House and are based on the Governor’s recommendations, where they’re amended to reflect that chamber’s budget priorities. Once passed by the full House, the bills go to the Senate, where they’re first considered by the Appropriations Committee, and then by the full Senate.
If members of the House do not approve changes made by the Senate, differences between the two versions of the bills will need to be ironed out by a conference committee. The budget plan that comes out of these negotiations will need final approval from both bodies before moving to the governor’s desk. We have until May 11 to approve the budget.
The Legislature’s only constitutionally mandated duty is to balance the state budget each year. This requirement has kept our state from over-extending itself, and is why, in large part, Missouri is in better standing than many other states. We’re one of only a handful of states that have retained our AAA bond rating.
Balancing the budget has never been a simple task, even in the most robust of times, and since 2008 and the global recession, crafting the budget has become an even more difficult process. Like previous years, we’re facing yet another shortfall this year, estimated at around $500 million. We’re going to have to cut our state spending. No matter how painful those cuts may be it is critical we have a budget that lives within our means.
Unlike the federal government, Missouri can only spend what we have. This is why it is essential that we work to pass a balanced budget. It also forces lawmakers to prioritize the functions of our state government. We have to reign in spending, make tough decisions, and ensure every dollar we spend counts.
This will not be easy. We’ve been reducing our budget for the last three years. Many departments and programs have already absorbed sharp cuts and have been forced to do more with less. We’re now faced with making some very difficult choices. But, we have consistently done it in the past, and we will do it this year.
I refuse to balance the budget by raising taxes on hard-working Missourians. Our economy is slowly recovering, but we have a long way to go. Many Missouri citizens remain unemployed. Average working families are struggling to make ends meet. I will not accept making the taxpayers of Missouri shoulder this burden.
A large portion of the remaining six weeks of session will be taken up with the budget. The Senate Appropriations Committee finished work on the budget bills this week. They will now go to the full Senate for consideration. We will spend a good majority of the remaining time in session to pass a balanced budget for Missouri.