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20 January 2012

Berry: State Of State Reaction, Protecting Missouri's Taxpayers

On Tuesday evening, January 17, Governor Jay Nixon presented his 2013 budget to a joint session of Missouri's General Assembly in his annual State of the State address. In last year's State of the State address, Governor Nixon stressed the importance of making state government smarter and more efficient. One year later, we are still faced with budget shortfalls. Despite some improvement in economic conditions, Missouri's budget still remains in a deep hole, and analysts are predicting shortfalls of $500 to $600 million for 2013. Even with the state's modest 3.9% increase in general revenue over the past year, most of these gains will be consumed by increases in Medicaid costs. Though Missouri has a federal Medicaid match, it is expected to drop by $90 million this year. This decrease in federal funds will have to be made up from state's general revenue fund.

As most of you know, the first and foremost responsibility of Missouri's General Assembly is to pass a balanced budget. This year's budgetary process will present many difficult challenges, because Missouri doesn't have adequate revenues available to fund all the state's existing programs and services.

Today's economic times are difficult for families, as well as businesses. If a family experiences a decrease in income, their wisest option is to reduce spending in order to make ends meet. This commonsense approach must also be followed in state government. We must tighten our belt to balance the budget and not raise job-killing taxes on Missourians. The real answer to the budget problem is to make better decisions with the revenue we have.

While we are working to bakance the current budget, it will be important to take measures to help present future budgetary shortfalls. The Taxpayer Protection Act [HJR43] will limit growth in the budget by using a formula that allows the budget to increase only in proportion to the state's population growth and rate of inflation. When times were good and there was plenty of available revenue for the budget, past legislatures increased the size and scope of government. When times turned lean and revenues went down, some programs and services could not be maintained. The Taxpayer Protection Act makes adjustments for savings in prosperous economic times in order to help the state through the tough economic times, thus helping the ease the strain of boom and bust cycles on future budgets. This is similar to the retained earnings concept in a corporation.

The budget is one issue that is looming over the state and our legislative session. We will have to work together to make the right sacrifices across the state, but our goal is to do so at the least expense to our citizens. As your State Representative, I am committeed to doing what I can to protect my constituents through legislation as well as work on the budge.

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