Committee Hears Second Round of Budget Testimony
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee met to hear another round of public testimony from government agency spokesmen. Faced with a considerable tax revenue shortfall, state legislators will likely need to make budget cuts for the coming fiscal year. During the second day of public testimony, however, the committee heard the same message it had heard the day before from government agency representatives: Don’t make additional cuts.
On Tuesday, representatives from the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Public Services, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Economic Development, the Judiciary, and the Office of the Public Defender had signed up to testify before the committee. About 65 people were set to testify before the committee for Tuesday with a few spillovers from Monday. Before the lunch recess, more than 25 people or groups had testified.
The morning testimony was filled with personal stories from former alcoholics, drug abusers, persons with disabilities, parents of children with developmental disorders, and others attempting to spare their respective programs from budget cuts.
However, committee members continued to focus on reducing the state budget. “The cuts are coming, really no one is going to be spared,” said Sen. Jim Lembke (R–Saint Louis).
At one point, Sen. Scott Rupp (R-Wentzville) asked, “Where would you point us to look to cut costs?”
Some people, such as Wendy Sullivan, president of Life Skills, urged funding cuts from existing facilities, such as the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center in Saint Louis, and downsizing state rehabilitation centers. Others, such as Dan Buck, CEO of the St. Patrick Center in Saint Louis, pointed to state tax credits.
Sen. Tom Dempsey (R–Saint Charles) said it was possible that the state could reconsider existing historical preservation and low-income housing tax credits.
Others offered ways to increase state revenues. Wayne Lee, a disability advocate, recommended that the state streamline taxes, while Gerrit DenHartog, a lobbyist for addiction rehabilitation organizations, advised an alcohol tax increase.
“The federal government doesn’t have any money. They’re borrowing from China. Their bubble is about to burst,” said Lembke, by way of advice to the St. Patrick Center and other organizations facing state funding cuts. “Let’s look to each other instead of government.”
Andrew Guevara is a student at the University of Missouri–Columbia.