State lawmakers reacted to Republican Governor Eric Greitens long anticipated public address on Missouri’s budget.
Previous heads of state have customarily dealt with the budget in their State of the State addresses which takes place in the early part of January.
A number of Democratic lawmakers had expressed displeasure that this year’s three-and-a-half week delay would rush the process of overseeing the budget changes which will go into effect July 1st.
Thursday, Greitens announced $572 million in cuts to state spending in the next fiscal year. GOP Senator Dan Brown, who heads the chamber’s Appropriations Committee, which deals with the state’s finances, said he was informed about the spending cuts Wednesday.
While offering little detail about the cuts, Brown said changes the governor’s making in leadership roles at various state agencies should make the spending reduction more manageable.
“With changes in the departments, you get new eyes looking at things” said Brown. “Hopefully we can be much more efficient with the money that they have to work with. And working to have better outcomes, even with less money. We can do that. We’ve had to do that in our businesses. We can certainly do that as a state.”
Brown questioned whether “cuts” were actually being made because the reductions were from money the departments had asked for.
The largest single cut is to higher education, $170 million. Brown said the decrease in funding would have to be absorbed, while noting he received both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of Missouri system.
“I always want to error on the side of education. However, we do feel like these cuts, the actual cuts that are occurring, can be absorbed, and we’re hoping that we see an uptick in the economy before the end of the year.”
Other departments seeing sizable reductions include Transportation, $80 million; Public Safety and Corrections, $10 million; and K-12, $10 million.
Brown said the cuts would satisfy the $700 million Greitens had said would need to be sliced over 18 months when he announced $146 million in spending restrictions last month for the current fiscal year.
Senate Democratic leader Gina Walsh said both legislative chambers need to come together to fulfill reductions made by the governor. “It is what it is. But we need to balance this budget. We need to move forward for the state of Missouri, and come out with a good product for them.”
The Missouri Constitution requires the governor to balance the state’s budget. Wash declined to comment on Greitens choice of where to slash spending.