Capitol observers anticipate a slow session with most of the focus on approving the 2013 state budget. But the pundits could be wrong, and most legislative sessions offer a few surprises. The Missouri Catholic Conference has a few priorities it would like lawmakers to consider even though it is an election year. To review the MCC priorities, click here.
Legislative leaders have their own ideas of what ought to be covered; click here to watch the opening address by the Speaker of the Missouri House Steve Tilley (R-Perryville) or click here to listen to the opening address by Senate President pro-tem Robert Mayer (R-Dexter).
State Budget – Will the Poor Be the First Victims?
For several years, lawmakers have been able to tout tax cuts while avoiding truly drastic budget cuts because the state has received emergency federal stimulus funds. But now those funds are no longer available and the Missouri state budget faces a $500 million budget hole.
Where will the budget cuts be made? Count on the education lobby groups to vigorously oppose cuts to K-12 public schools. Senate Budget Chair Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) will certainly do what he can to protect funding for the University of Missouri and other higher education institutions.
That leaves programs that assist Missouri’s most vulnerable – Medicaid health care for the poor, in-home care services for the indigent elderly, sheltered workshops for the disabled, maternity homes and pregnancy resource centers that offer women alternatives to abortion. Who will defend funding for these programs?
The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) recognizes the moral obligation to practice good stewardship in the use of tax dollars. At the same time, the MCC opposes putting the poor first on the budget chopping block simply because they lack the political clout to protect their fate.
As an MCC Citizens’ Network member, we invite you to add your voice to those who urge lawmakers to protect funding for vital state services that assist Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. Stayed tuned for more on this in the coming weeks.
Ways to Raise Revenue
There are ways to raise revenue that are attractive even to those who generally oppose tax increases. Missouri, for example, has the lowest tobacco tax in the nation. At 17 cents a cigarette pack, Missouri’s tax is lower than even big tobacco producing states such as Kentucky and North and South Carolina. Another possible way to raise revenue would be to end the favoritism granted to out-of-state merchants such as Amazon that don’t collect sales tax like in-state merchants do.
Both ideas may be discussed this session, but it may take an initiative petition that brings the issue directly to voters before action is taken to raise revenue for essential state services.