Holden wants his tax plan put to a statewide vote in August

Friday, May 2, 2003

Missouri Gov. Bob Holden says he won't enact the Missouri Senate's "doomsday budget" because it would drastically cut state services.

In a visit to the Cape Girardeau Senior Center on Thursday, Holden urged the GOP-led Missouri Legislature to put his tax plan before the voters in August rather than cut millions of dollars out of school district, university and state agency budgets.

Holden said he'll veto the Senate budget plan if lawmakers don't craft one to his liking.

Holden said his plan would address an estimated $1 billion budget shortfall by closing corporate tax loopholes, raising cigarette taxes and fees for gaming boats and placing a surcharge on individual income taxes of those making over $200,000 a year.

"My plan provides a leaner state budget, but not a meaner state budget," he said before a crowd of about 40 people, including representatives of entities that receive state funding.

Holden said the Senate budget plan would cut $426 million in state spending for education, including $337 million for elementary and secondary education and $89 million for higher education.

Southeast Missouri State University would see a cut of nearly $5 million, Holden said.

The Jackson School District could be cut at least $1.4 million in state funding in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, said school superintendent Dr. Ron Anderson, among those who met with Holden at the senior center.

At this rate, Anderson said the district will have to get by with fewer teachers and larger class sizes.

Rural schools 'devastated'

Holden said, "Many rural schools in this state are going to be devastated by the budget cuts."

Cuts in funding for Missouri's public colleges and universities would result in tuition and fee increases of 15 to 18 percent that would amount to a tax increase for middle-class families, he said.

Holden said the Senate plan also would cut $11.5 million in funding for state health and senior services programs.

Ruth Dockins, public information director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging, said state funding for delivery of meals to the homebound elderly could be reduced. That would be a hardship on the elderly who depend on the program for sometimes their only hot meal of the day, she said.

Holden said he would like his tax plan submitted to the voters in August so the public would have a choice whether to raise taxes or risk cuts in state services.

"Legislative leaders should at least allow the public the right to vote on cuts of this magnitude," he said.

In response to Holden's veto threat, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said, "I wish the governor would park the plane and come in here and work with us in the 18, 19 hours a day we are working to address this budget crisis across party lines."

Southeast Missourian staff writer Marc Powers contributed to this report.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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