Holden plans budget reshuffling

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- When Gov. Bob Holden proposes his budget next week, he will suggest an unprecedented reshuffling of dollars among agencies in an effort to balance the budget, his financial chief said Monday.

Some state programs will be eliminated and others will receive less money so that spending can keep pace with demands in priorities such as education and necessities such as inmate medical care, said budget chief Brian Long.

"When the governor introduces his budget, it will be the greatest -- or largest -- amount of core reallocations in the history of the state," Long told a House budget committee that handles, among other things, the budget for Holden's own office.

Holden is to deliver his State of the State and Budget Address on Jan. 23.

Last year, lawmakers approved a budget of more than $19 billion for state government. But Holden has vetoed or cut about $600 million, largely because of an expected revenue shortfall caused by an economic recession. The state is required to have a balanced budget.

For the fiscal year that starts July 1, Holden will propose to make many of those cuts permanent, Long said. But that is not possible for some $300 million of this year's budget withholdings that came from one-time funding sources, such as tobacco settlement funds or construction projects.

As a result, more cuts will be necessary to the core budgets of state programs and agencies, Long said.

Long's budget office expects next year's tax revenues to be about $150 million more than this year. But the office has received about $700 million in new funding requests for items that in the past would have been considered mandatory.

Those include $220 million for elementary and secondary schools and $195 million for the Medicaid health-care program for the poor and disabled. Other requested funding increases include $30 million for state employee health care and about $20 million for inmate health care, Long said.

To meet just some of those funding increases, even more cuts will have to be made to other parts of the budget, Long said.

"There will be programs cut that we're just not going to do," Long said, but "we're not going to suggest eliminating big programs that affect lots and lots of vulnerable people."

Long said there are no plans for a general tax increase, but he said fees might be able to be raised for some services. He was not specific.

Long also said the state might be able to draw more federal money for some programs.

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