Under the shadow of newly announced budget cuts, negotiators from the Senate and House hope to broker a compromise between the spending blueprints approved by the two chambers.

Negotiators began their work this week. They met after the Senate and House adjourned for the week on Thursday, breaking off talks to leave Jefferson City for the weekend. They are scheduled to resume negotiations Monday morning.

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (D-Wildwood) says the two sides aren’t all that far off. The House approved $224 million in cuts to the nearly $24 billion budget submitted to legislators by Governor Nixon in January. Nixon’s request to cut an additional $500 million came late in the process in the House. The Senate Appropriations Committee increased budget cuts to $509 million, but the full Senate backed off that total a bit, settling at around $450 million in additional budget cuts.

Many of the savings approved by the Senate rely on changes in state law, including consolidations of departments. Icet says he’s not too worried that the budget cuts approved by the Senate rely heavily on changes in state statutes; changes that haven’t been made yet. He does admit to a bit of anxiety, though.

“Well, that is always a heartburn, given that we have the cart before the horse a bit,” Icet tells the Missourinet. “But as you well know, given we have a few weeks left in session there’s just not enough time to go through the process.”

Budget negotiators don’t have the luxury of waiting until the full legislature approved the needed legislation. They must work out a compromise that can be approved by both chambers by May 7th, the Friday before the session ends.

Even as budget negotiators met, the Nixon Administration announced that falling state revenue triggered another round of budget cuts, this time totaling $45 million. The further deterioration of the current budget casts an ominous cloud over work on next year’s budget. State Budget Director Linda Luebbering reports that net tax collections for April, a key month for state revenue, fell 19%. Overall, state tax collections this fiscal year are down 14% compared to the previous fiscal year. The governor has vetoed or withheld $900 million from the budget approved by the legislature last year.

The current fiscal year ends June 30th.