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This fiscal conservative is giving Governor Bluntís FY 2008 Budget mixed reviews. During his tenure, he has averted a billion dollar budget deficit and the state had a budget surplus for the first time in five years. There was lawsuit reform and regulatory relief and in 2007, 28,000 new jobs were created in Missouri. His MO Health Net program is a successful effort to slow down the growth of the stateís unfunded mandated Medicaid program.
Proposals for modest increases in funding to elementary and secondary education, higher education, scholarships, MO Health Net, and pay increases for state employees are supportable. However, included in his budget is a long list of other new funding priorities, unfortunately too lengthy to review here. The Missouri Budget Project estimates that these priorities will require an additional 600 million dollars in revenue for the state to fund them. Given that the nation is likely headed toward recession, the Governorís revenue estimate for fiscal year 2008 is probably optimistic. Further, Missouriís long term obligations to pension funds, highways, health services, corrections, and capital improvements could produce a budget deficit as early as 2010.
Now is the time for a prudent state budget, building on the budget reserve of last year. Can we rely upon the Missouri General Assembly to significantly reduce the expenditures in the Governorís FY 2008 budget? I hope so, although I doubt it.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Lowe "Sandy" MacLean is vice chancellor emeritus, University of Missouri, St. Louis, and is active in local political and community organizations, including the Grand Order of Pachyderms (GOP), a service organization for the Republican Party.