Sunday, December 17, 2006
Missouri's financial fortunes have dramatically shifted since Gov. Matt Blunt took office two years ago. At the time, the state was wrestling with a large revenue shortfall. The governor and legislature teamed up to reduce state spending, cut state jobs and enhance revenue-producing opportunities. The result: Nearly $300 million more revenue in the last fiscal year than anticipated. And this year's surplus projections are that high -- and maybe even more.
Whenever government has a pot of money, the inclination is to find ways to spend it. There are parts of state government -- higher education, for example -- that took the brunt of budget cuts when money was tight. Blunt would like to see some of those funds restored.
But, overall, Blunt would like to see less government, not more. And one way to achieve that is by limiting revenue available to be spent on state government. One trial balloon Blunt sent up around the state last week was a tax cut. Several options are under consideration, including elimination of the state's personal income tax.
This is not a new idea. Other states have found that eliminating personal income taxes make them more attractive to investors looking for new plant locations and other business operations. Revenue lost from the income tax is replaced by increased revenue related to increased economic activity.
It's much too early to say what kind of tax cut -- if any -- would best serve Missouri and its taxpayers. But it's good to see the governor trying out some ideas in a series of telephone interviews with news organizations around the state.