A lawmakers in charge of finances isn’t sure if the state can avoid more cuts to programs.
Governor Jay Nixon withheld $115.5 million in spending when tax collections fell short of expectations in the last fiscal year.
In the current year which started in July, the state’s projecting a four percent increase in collections, but admits there’ll need to be a rise of seven percent to avoid another shortfall. Newly installed House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) is not optimistic about the outcome. “I think it’s going to be hard to achieve the necessary growth for the budget to not require any withholds. So, yes that’s definitely a concern”.
Fitzpatrick cautions that it’s too early to know how tax collections will pan out over the rest of the year. If tax collections exceed estimates, it’s possible there’ll be enough money refill the cuts Governor Nixon made. If collections fall short, those cuts could become permanent.
Fitzpatrick thinks the state will have a better handle on its finances by December when revenue estimates will be revised. That process will include a governor elect, as Nixon will be leaving due to term limits. “That person will probably be key in that discussion on coming up with an estimate” said Fitzpatrick.
The new governor, along with Fitzpatrick and the yet to be named Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman will formulate new estimates for the rest of the fiscal year as part of the Consensus Revenue Estimate (CRE).
Among the other things Fitzpatrick want to do as head of the House Budget Committee is increase the wages of state employees. “You can’t pay the worst of anybody in the country and expect to hear that talented people are going to stick around for a long time” said Fitzpatrick.
He also says he wants to pass a conservative budget to ensure the state has ample funding in case revenues don’t meet expectations, as they failed to do in 2016.