Missouri, a fiscal role model
June 12, 2008

Principles that work (contrasting political philosophies)
by Missouri Rep. Ed Emery (R-126 including the counties of
Barton, Dade, Jasper and Polk)

“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other” --Voltaire (1764)

States across the country are suffering financially. According to a recent report issued by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 23 states are facing a total budget gap of at least $26 billion for their 2009 budgets. Of the 50 states, 33 are classified as concerned about their economic outlook and four are listed as pessimistic. Only 13 states are listed as having stable or optimistic forecasts for their fiscal year 2009 budgets. Missouri is one of those states as we budget for our third consecutive year with a surplus.

Four years ago, under Governor Holden, we faced over a $1 billion budget shortfall and were called into special session to raise taxes (which we refused to do). But the economic principles followed the last four years have produced a healthy surplus by reforming a broken system and making tough choices. The budgeting process was reformed into one that is performance-based, much like the private sector. That change of philosophy emphasizes funding to activities that are producing results and not wasting your dollars. Eliminating waste, fraud and abuse from government has been a priority. The changes have pulled Missouri back from the brink of economic disaster and have now positioned us to forge ahead while other states struggle.

Missouri’s budget surplus cannot stabilize the housing market or bring down the price of oil, but it does have a positive impact on our lives. To illustrate, we need only to look at how other states are dealing with budget pressures. At least 16 states plan to reduce spending or eliminate programs to balance their books. New Jersey has made nearly $1 billion in cuts and has called for no growth for 2009, something that almost never happens in state budgeting. Florida cut $1 billion last October to avert a shortfall in their current budget. Nevada has imposed a 4.5 percent cut for all state agencies including K-12 education.

In addition, there are eight states considering tax increases to generate new revenue. Their citizens, who are already suffering through tough economic times, now must face the prospect of having their tax burden increased. I think we can all agree that is not something we want to see in Missouri.

While some may claim state government is not spending enough, the truth is Missouri’s budget has grown steadily each year. This year’s budget will be the largest in the history of our state, and the increased revenues and budget surpluses were achieved without increasing taxes. In fact, for many Missourians, the taxes have decreased. Now, if we could just win over the U.S. Congress to some of the ideas and principles that have protected Missouri citizens!

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