Budget battles that have raged throughout this year and led to unprecedented vetoes of budget bills and two special legislative sessions gave way to what everyone involved described as a productive budget meeting. House Speaker Catherine Hanaway (R-Warson Woods) won’t disclose details of the meeting between legislative leaders and Govenor Holden, but says it was very positive and should lead to further budget talks between the two sides. Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder (R-Cape Girardeau) also attended the meeting and called the talks candid and fruitful. The mood and interviews given by Republican leaders after the meeting were far different than what occurred during the regular legislative session when Republican leaders defied the threat of budget vetoes by Holden, a Democrat. Little changed during two special legislative sessions Holden called after following through with his veto threats. The governor begrudingly signed the budget after Republicans refused to approve a revenue package the governor said would keep him from making further cuts to education, social services and health. On Wednesday, Governor Holden met with Republican legislative leaders as well as Democrats and staff members in his Capitol office. The meeting was private and lasted for about two hours. House Budget Committee Chairman Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles) said it was the best meeting he had had with the governor since he had been a legislator. No agreement has been reached on the scope of the state’s financial problem, but the sides are talking and Holden spokesman Mary Still says the talks will continue. Holden declined to speak with reporters after the meeting. He did issue a written statement, in which he stated he was very pleased with the dialogue that took place among the participants of the meeting. Some budget analysts predict the state will fall as much as one billion dollars short of the revenue needed to fund current state programs and services in Fiscal Year 2005.
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