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01 April 2010

Engler: Fiscal Responsibility in Economically Tough Times

Last week, the House finished their work on the budget and sent the bills to the Senate. This now means that the Senate Appropriations Committee will go through each of the 13 budget bills and craft their own version of the state spending plan. The bills will then move to the Senate floor for the full Senate to debate. Once the full Senate approves the budget, Senate and House budget leaders will meet to iron out any differences between the two versions. The full House and Senate must agree to a balanced budget (this year’s Constitutional deadline is May 7) before it is sent to the governor.

The process of passing the budget is the same every year, but the work ahead of us this year is particularly tough. Based on revenue collections, the current fiscal year’s budget is going to experience an historic shortfall, and it is estimated that the FY 2011 budget originally submitted by the governor will be at least $500 million out of balance. There are many programs and services that Missourians depend on in their day-to-day lives, but we also have to make sure we come up with a balanced budget that is sustainable for our state’s future.

Missouri’s Constitution requires that we must have a balanced budget. This means that, unlike Congress, we can’t just borrow our way out of fiscal problems. We will keep our promise to not increase taxes on the people of Missouri. This leaves us with only one option: closely consider every spending obligation in our budget and find ways to cut costs.

This week, we also continued an ongoing discussion on economic development. We are working to strike a balance between making sure tax credits are used in a responsible way and providing incentives to businesses looking to expand in or move to Missouri. There are several views in the Senate on how we can best go about this process and, with the state’s finances as tight as they are, it is important that we address these issues.

Senate Bill 895 is the comprehensive economic development bill in the Senate this year. The bill contains several programs designed to create jobs, attract businesses to our state, and encourage the ones that are already here to grow. This includes offering increased incentives to established Missouri businesses looking to expand and a program to attract high-tech companies to our state. Ultimately, we have to make sure that your tax dollars are receiving the best return on its investment as possible.

I want to wish everyone in the 3rd District a happy Easter with family and friends this weekend.

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