It's a rainy day

Friday, May 17, 2002

By Bob Holden

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri has led our nation in facing up to fiscal challenges caused by a changing economy, terrorist attacks and national policy. As governor, I have taken the necessary steps to preserve Missouri's reputation for sound management while meeting the needs of the people of Missouri. I've made the tough choices and fought to preserve services to our most vulnerable citizens while at the same time making sound investments for Missouri's future.

Even in this time of fiscal challenge, I've preserved my commitment to better funding for public elementary and secondary education, both for the current fiscal year and the next. This unflinching commitment contrasts with the decisions of many other states, including neighboring Kansas, where public schools would suffer significant budget cuts.

Now, with time running out in the legislative session, obstructionism and stalling tactics by House Republicans continue to block the way to a solution. The Senate, in a bipartisan 31-2 vote, approved a balanced budget. But the House, as a Republican senator said, "has done a disservice by going against the proposal to use the Rainy Day Fund."

Under the Missouri Constitution, Missouri must have a balanced budget. I'm committed to meeting that responsibility. The Rainy Day Fund was designed to meet the state's needs in times like this. I know. I co-sponsored this measure when I was a member of the state legislature. Instead, House Republicans have chosen to limit our options. They have made no proposals to trim government for the long term but instead have forced me to make temporary cuts in higher education and senior services while furloughing thousands of state employees who provide needed services.

Let's not confuse the short-term emergency with the need to reduce spending in some areas and modernize state government to be more efficient and effective. We have done both over the last year. We have reduced spending by more than $600 million. We have consolidated agencies. We have improved important services while reducing their cost. We will continue to do so.

We also must solve the problems caused by our immediate revenue shortfall. The House Republican alternative has been to obstruct the use of the Rainy Day Fund, causing long-term negative consequences and hurting a large number of citizens who have few options, such as senior citizens, college students and service providers at state agencies and nursing homes.

Don't let the House Republicans confuse you. Missouri law provides the tools necessary to get the job done. The Senate and I are leading the way. It's time for House Republicans to act responsibly. The challenges are difficult, but the way is clear.

Bob Holden is the governor of Missouri.

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