We All Have Our Priorities
Another session of the Missouri General Assembly has begun and lawmakers in Jefferson City, by law, must close the projected shortfall in the state’s budget. The actual amount of the shortfall is difficult to determine. One source estimates it is $500 million, another says the shortfall ranges between $400 million and $600 million. Needless to say, the number is not insubstantial.
The question arises about what to cut. However, what if appropriators flipped this picture upside-down? What if the legislators asked what should be funded first, instead of what should be cut?
It turns out that the authors of the Missouri Constitution gave this some thought. The state Constitution provides a list of the order in which money is to be appropriated. It seems the authors of the state Constitution tried to tell us the state’s spending priorities. Those funding priorities are (in order):
1. For payment of sinking fund and interest on outstanding obligations of the state.
2. For the purpose of public education.
3. For the payment of the cost of assessing and collecting the revenue.
4. For the payment of the civil lists (in this case, state employees).
5. For the support of eleemosynary (charity) and other state institutions.
6. For public health and public welfare.
7. For all other state purposes.
8. For the expense of the general assembly.
Now, I am not saying cuts in say, education spending, are completely off limits. If there is waste, get rid of it, no matter where it is. However, the legislature should prioritize spending based on the guidelines of what is emphasized in the Constitution, and if spending cuts are needed, they should be in lower priority items. One example of something that might not qualify as “high priority” is the Missouri Wine and Grape Board. Another example is state ethanol subsidies. Between these programs and K-12 education, which is a higher priority to you?