The next state budget has been put together without tax increases, with program cuts and with uncertainty about the future. Sometime in the next six weeks, Governor Blunt will decide what to do with the budget bills the legislature has sent him. But even now, appropriations leaders are wondering what will influence the budget beyond that one. Senate Appropriations Chairman Chuck Gross (R-St. Charles) doesn’t know if the state can go another year without a tax increase of some kind. He says the state needs to look at the level of government income growth it can live with. Gross admits he does not know if natural growth of the state economy will be enough to pay for the demands on education and social services, among other programs. He says the budget passed this year is no more perfect than any budget the legisalture passes. He says it’s just a framework within which the executive branch must work. But Gross says the governor has a lot of flexibility to move money around within programs and services to meet the needs of the public. Critics of the budget constructed by Republicans say it just pushes problems down to the local government or personal level. Democrats charge the Republicans are short-sighted and have taken actions that will wind up costing taxpayers more in the long run.