It hasn’t taken long for a state budget balance to turn into a $300-to-400 million shortfall. House leadership hopes the state can get through the current fiscal year without resorting to withholdings.

The economic downturn has crippled state revenues, imperiling the current budget.

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) says he hopes Governor Nixon will work with both him and the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, Gary Nodler (R-Joplin), to settle on withholdings, if any are needed. Icet says there remains the possibility that state government can handle the shortfall through budget tightening, such as leaving positions vacant and not funding certain programs.

Meanwhile, budget cuts could be on the horizon. Lawmakers have already begun the preliminary work on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 st . It is almost certain next year’s budget will have to be slimmer than this year’s budget.

House Speaker Ron Richard of Joplin understands budget cuts can hurt. He pledges to handle any budget cuts in an even-handed and appropriate manner. Richard says higher education has been unfairly hurt in the past by budget writers looking for savings. He says he doesn’t want budget problems to hold back the legislature this session, insisting that lawmakers will fulfill their promises, despite a drop in state revenue.

Richard is quick to point out that many other states are having far worse problems, some going so far as to not pay Medicaid providers for services rendered.

Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)