House budget committee members have been told to cut a little deeper as the committee chairman looks ahead and sees no reason to believe state revenues are turning around any time soon.
The state budget submitted by Governor Nixon totals nearly $24 billion, which would be $2.6 billion less than the current budget. That still is too large for House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) who has asked his various appropriations sub-committee chairmen to trim an extra five percent.
“Now, clearly every committee has different dynamics they have deal with so that was not a hard and fast, but see what you could do,” Icet says he instructed his six budget sub-committee chairmen. “And if you can go beyond five percent, that’s good.”
Some have taken the advice to heart with chaotic results. The House Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services was thrown into disarray when it couldn’t get enough Republicans to vote for deep cuts to the departments of health and mental health. The committee went into recess until enough members were persuaded to approve the budgets.
The cuts being pushed by Icet would come in the crucial General Revenue budget which totals $7.2 billion. State tax revenues still lag well below levels necessary to pay all the state’s bills; as much as 12% below. Icet doesn’t see them rebounding over the next couple of years. The state also plans to use the remaining budget stabilization money approved by Congress, which would total at least $900 million, perhaps $1.2 billion if a promised $300 million actually comes through.
The five percent reduction target would total about $300 million. Icet worries about making up the extra federal funds.
“Next year at this time, if we do in fact have a, let’s say, a $900 million hole. If we are able to cut $300 million this year, which I don’t know if we can get to, that still leaves a $600 million hole,” Icet says. “My opinion is, again if nothing happens, there will be programs that are completely eliminated. You can’t get to $600 million by trimming around the edges.”
The health sub-committee has proposed cutting funding to crisis pregnancy centers as well as community health care centers. It recommends cutting state subsidies for domestic violence shelters.
Much time remains in the budget process. The six sub-committees funnel their recommendations to the full House Budget Committee which must approve the bills and send them to the full House for consideration. Once the House approves a budget, it moves to the Senate for consideration. The two chambers then meet to reach agreement before a final product goes to Governor Nixon for consideration.