Budget Action In Search Of A Crisis
Three weeks ago, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he would withhold slightly more than $400 million from the state’s 2014 budget. His action was supposedly due to the “significant costs” of the Broad-Based Tax Relief Act (BBTRA), which he recently vetoed and the legislature may try to override this fall. The governor’s full restriction list is here. It includes more than $66 million carved from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, more than $43 million from the Department of Higher Education, and more than $17 million from the state park system. The governor has also sought out a road map to eliminate 1,000 state positions if the tax cut is resurrected.
It seems the governor wants as many people to know about, and feel, these cutbacks as possible. However, the budget facts paint a far less dire picture than the one the governor has sketched out, and to which he is presumably reacting. As the Associated Press‘s David Lieb noted:
. . . Nixon announced more than $400 million of spending restrictions for education, building projects and other government services, even though Missouri began its fiscal year July 1 with a cash balance of around $450 million.
The state apparently has more money in the bank than Nixon has set aside from the budget to supposedly avert a budget deficit. And that’s before we even start talking about the BBTRA, which the governor claims is the driving factor behind his cutbacks. Indeed, with all impacts on the budget included, the fiscal note on the cost of the BBTRA suggests the tax cut would decrease state revenue by about $200 million in 2014 — which is far short of the $400 million the governor withheld.
The state’s education system and other programs are the ones that get hit hard because of the withholding, for seemingly no good reason. The money in the bank doesn’t justify it, and the price tag of the tax cut doesn’t justify it. I’m not so sure Missouri’s schools appreciate their funding being held hostage in the governor’s fight with the legislature, especially when the facts don’t justify the cutbacks.