He steps into a position that could be described as difficult, at best. Brent Martin has talked with the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Rob Mayer, a Republican from Dexter, steps into the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee as Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) steps down to concentrate on his run for Congress.
We offered Mayer or congratulations and condolences.
“You’re not the first person that has made that type of statement to me,” Mayer tells the Missourinet. “I’m honored that Sen. Shields (Senate President Pro Tem) has the confidence in me to select me for the position as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, I do realize the challenges that the state of Missouri faces are some of the more monumental challenges that we have faced in the history of the state.”
State lawmakers face a tough task. State revenue has been in a near free-fall. With the economy still mired in recession, state revenue likely will shrink rather than grow during the next fiscal year.
Gov. Nixon has cut a total of $634 million from the current state budget, the budget lawmakers crafted during the legislative session that ended in mid-May. Nixon vetoed $105 million from the budget. He since has withheld nearly $530 million. Nixon’s hand was forced by a 10% drop in state revenue during the first quarter of the fiscal year that begin July 1st, a $189 million drop. The recession has been indiscriminate in its effect on state revenue. Corporate income taxes fell 15.9%, individual income taxes fell 10.7% and sales tax revenue dropped 6.8%. The state has $333 million left in federal budget stabilization funds, according to the State Budget Office.
Though the legislative session doesn’t begin until the first of January, Gov. Nixon has already been out front promising both the state’s four-year and its two-year colleges that he will not recommend more than 5% budget reductions as long as they hold the line on tuition.
Mayer says his relationship with Governor Nixon, a Democrat, is good and he understands the motive behind the governor’s promise to state colleges. He says Republican leaders want to keep from cutting college budgets and don’t want to see colleges increase tuition. Still, Mayer wonders about the timing of the governor’s promise.
“You know, it’s somewhat premature to talk about what you’re going to do with certain segments of the budget when you really haven’t even arrived at a consensus revenue amount,” Mayer says.
Still, Mayer pledges to work with the governor, and the House, to craft a budget during a difficult year. Mayer says the difference between the Senate and House has been the most marked feature of budget debate at the Capitol the past few years, even though both are controlled by Republicans.