REACTION TO A PROJECTED $342 MILLION DOLLAR SHORTFALL
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"We prepared for what we knew would be a downturn economy."
#139th District Rep. Shane Schoeller (R) says a budget shortfall will present tough decisions, but notes that other states are in much worse shape. He thinks Gov.-elect Jay Nixon will definitely have to scale back his campaign promises, but cautions that projections are often wrong. Schoeller says that historically the budget does better during the first half of the year, and seems hopeful that a slow recovery could lift revenues higher than expected by June.
"The first thing I think they will try to cut is higher ed, that's where they always go."
#135th District Rep. Charlie Denison (R) says higher education will be the first area likely to see a funding cut. Denison also seemed to support Nixon's call to evaluate state tax credits given to businesses. "I think at this particular time, it's something we have to take a look at," he said. When asked if he thought the Medicaid cuts would be restored this session, he replied, "Not this time, not this year. "It's going to be a very tough year, no doubt about it," Denison said.
"They'll lose faculty because they won't be able to hire."
Reached by phone, #138th District Rep. Sara Lampe (D) says that she hopes no decisions about the budget will be made too quickly. "I hope we're deliberate, purposeful and won't make any quick decisions. We will have to make cuts, it will be painful. The scary part about that is the cost of higher education remains, whether the state money comes in or not," Lampe said. "They'll lose faculty because they won't be able to hire," she added, referring to the impact the cuts will have on public universities. "They'll have to cut core programs, core experiences for students." Lampe also said that when lawmakers reconvene, they should look at programs that "for years have looked ok, when we've had the money." Her primary target: Tax Credits. "We need to ask, are they necessary? Are they bringing jobs in or are they part of the problem?"
"Give Congress time to act on a stimulus measure."
Amy Blouin, of the nonprofit Missouri Budget Project wants Nixon to hold off on any proposed cuts until Congress considers a federal stimulus package for the states in January. She said some estimates show Missouri could get $250 million dollars from that type of a package. She also acknowledged it will be "more difficult" for Nixon to fulfill his campaign pledge to restore all of the 2005 Medicaid cuts, but added that healthcare coverage is needed now more than ever. Blouin said that during a recession period, unemployment rises, and therefore more people depend on public assistance for their healthcare needs. She also noted that without drastic changes, Missouri could face a $900 million dollar shortfall for fiscal year 2010.