A former House Budget Committee chairman disputes Governor Nixon’s contention that the House has not approved a balanced budget.
Nixon has said that the House took some solid steps in dealing with the unexpectedly revenue shortfall, but that the legislature must cut more. Nixon doesn’t agree with House leaders that the chamber approved a balanced budget. The House has completed the first stage in the long budget process. The 13 budget bills that outline the state’s $23 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year to the Senate for its consideration. The House budget is $224 million lighter than the budget initially submitted by the governor before state officials concluded that tax revenue won’t pick up and that additional cuts will be necessary. Nixon pegs those cuts at around half a billion dollars.
Rep. Chris Kelly of Columbia says he agrees with Nixon, a fellow Democrat, that the legislature should make more cuts to the budget, but disagrees that the cuts approved by the House aren’t enough to balance the budget.
Kelly says there’s a lot of talk in the Capitol that the Senate will make additional cuts.
“But, I’ve seen a lot of talk over the years about cutting the budget, I’ll be interested in seeing which cuts they actually make,” Kelly tells the Missourinet.
Kelly says any deeper cuts will be profound.
“The governor also needs to become engaged on more than a rhetorical level in these cuts,” Kelly says.
Kelly served as House Budget Chairman in the early ’90s in his first tenure in the House. This is the worst budget he’s seen.
“This is the most difficult budget in generations and, generally speaking, the governor has done a good job on the budget in so far as those things which he does alone,” Kelly says. “The area that I’d like to see the governor improving on is the area of working with the General Assembly to make the really big, profound cuts. He’s not going to be able to make them alone.”
Most legislative leaders seem to agree that an anticipated $300 million more in federal dollars should not be used in the coming fiscal year, but postponed for Fiscal Year 2012. The budget process began with the governor’s State of the State speech. Since then, state tax revenue continues to slump, causing budget writers to revise their revenue expectations for the next fiscal year. Once the Senate completes work on the budget, it will meet in conference with the House to reach a compromise on a spending plan to send to the governor. The General Assembly must approve a budget by May 7th.