Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon did the fiscally responsible thing in cutting $59 million to make up for new tax breaks that the irresponsible state legislature enacted when legislators last week overrode the governor’s vetoes.
But what’s clear is that all cuts in an already austere state budget will hurt the state agencies and the people they serve. The already needy state highway system will have to swallow hard and live with $22 million less for local highways, river ports and transportation projects.
Missouri appears to be on the bad, poorly maintained road to Kansas.
Blame the needed cuts on a new income tax deduction for agricultural disaster aid payments and a sales tax exemption for instructional classes such as dance lessons. They are expected to take nearly $52 million from the state budget.
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That’s something the new governor elected in November will have to live with if he wants to keep the state fiscally sound. The Republican-controlled General Assembly thinks that the state’s $27.5 billion budget can accommodate the cuts.
Nixon believes otherwise. His offsetting cuts include more than $24 million that was supposed to go to kindergarten through 12th-grade public schools.
That’s not being taken lightly by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said last week in a prepared statement: “We are disappointed in today’s budget cuts that will directly impact schools. Excellent public education is one of our greatest resources and also one of our greatest obligations.”
Fully funding schools is essential to ensuring that the quality of education doesn’t slip.
The state budget cuts include more than $8 million for higher education and more than $4 million for agricultural programs. The state budget runs through June.
That means the agencies affected the most by the cuts will have to live with them for months. But so will the people in Missouri who depend on the services.