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Opinion: Budget cuts necessary, but not the answer

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As the ranking member for the minority party on the House Budget Committee, I can say the $23 billion fiscal 2012 state operating budget that just passed the House of Representatives is about the best that could be done under current circumstances.

Budget chairman, Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Clay County, balanced priorities and exhibited consistent stewardship in the budget process. The committee scoured every budget line, cutting back each state department and every officeholder.

Although the committee’s budget proposal closely follows the governor’s recommendation, reasonably allocating funds available, it still falls well short of providing the services needed by the people of Missouri.

The formula for distributing state money to local public schools is underfunded, again. Missouri’s per-student funding for colleges and universities, already ranked 49th among the 50 states, is being cut, again. Health and mental health care services are being cut, again. Access Missouri scholarships are being cut by $20 million. All of this is happening on the backdrop of record high enrollments in our colleges and universities.

While these decisions are necessary, the General Assembly must have the political will to take action. A decade of budget cutting has failed to put Missouri on a sound financial footing, proof that cutting alone is not the key to prosperity.

We are told increasing taxes is not an option, yet the state could shore up its tax base by limiting the diversion of taxpayer money from the state treasury. Eliminating some of the $700 million a year in tax credits given to private businesses, individuals and organizations, enacting streamlined tax collection to capture the millions in taxes on Internet sales that are owed, but not paid, or discontinue paying businesses for paying their taxes on time, are just a few of the options for a more balanced approach to budgeting in Missouri.

Per capita, Missouri is one of the lowest revenue-raising states in the nation, and we’ve been in that position for years. Missouri ranks 46th in both state revenues and median family income, 47th in state taxes, 45th in state expenditures, 38th in K–12 school spending, and 49th in colleges and universities spending.

Doing the best we can under the circumstances is not the same as doing what we must.

We must come up with ways to get Missourians back to work. I am interested in hearing your ideas about creating jobs to strengthen Missouri’s economic base.

—Sara Lampe, Democratic Missouri Representative[[In-content Ad]]

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