We’re in the first quarter of the state’s budget year and financial analysts in state government already are trying to anticipate the condition of the economy in January, when the legislature starts in earnest to write a new spending plan. Lawmakers and their staffs who decide how much the government can spend on services and programs for its citizens are hearing suggestions the economy is softening.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Nodler of Joplin says his staff is getting revised income numbers every day. He says the state has to take a conservative approach until the trends become clearer. Nodler says the state does not want to put itself in a position where it might have to make dramatic budget cuts, as it did four or five years ago. But he says that might mean some difficult decisions will have to be made later in this budget year.
Nodler will start holding hearings in December with citizens, agency heads, and lobbyist for special interest groups, all of which are likely to ask for money or MORE money. Nodler has been through several of these hearings that often force him to say "no." He says it is not hard to reject pleas for better support of various programs because the state has to invest its money in programs that provide benefits to the greatest number of people and prove most beneficial to the state.