Missouri's spending grew $12.5 billion in 14 years

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Editor's note: This is the third in a three-part series on the declining fiscal fortunes of Missouri's state government and their effect on delivery of services.

By Jack Stapleton Jr. ~ Southeast Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- To understand why Missouri is experiencing pains in the pocketbook, look no further than the increases in spending since John Ashcroft unveiled the first budget in his second term as governor.

The rapid increase in spending since January 1988 -- encompassing four years of Ashcroft's second term, eight years of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and two years of Gov. Bob Holden -- provides a clear picture of why spending for the current Fiscal Year 2003 is still being curtailed, a pattern that state fiscal officers now say may continue through the first several months of next year.

Over the past 14 years, Missouri's state government spending increased 289 percent, growing from $6.6 billion in FY 1988 to $19.1 billion in FY 2002 -- an increase of $12.5 billion, a growth that is nearly twice the size of Ashcroft's total budget allocations in FY 1988.

Not included in the figures are expenses outside the operating budget, including the costs for maintenance and repair of capital improvements, new construction projects and one-time new-building projects. In the current spending schedule, these off-budget expenditures are scheduled to receive $227.6 million.

The growth total averages out to $889.1 million a year, a figure that equals Missouri government's budget in the final year of the James T. Blair administration in 1960.

The largest funding increases over the 14-year span have occurred in the so-called "billion-dollar departments," those agencies that received at least $1 billion in annual appropriations in the Ashcroft administration. These agencies include the departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Social Services.

Public school funding -- which once was the largest of any agency in the state -- reached $1.8 billion in FY 1988, and was followed by the state's welfare assistance department, Social Services, which received $1.2 billion.

Mandated programs

In contrast, public school spending in Holden's current FY 2003 budget is expected to top $4.7 billion, while Social Services earlier took over the lead as the largest-funded agency, receiving an appropriation of $5.6 billion in the current fiscal year. The leading contributor to huge assistance allocations is the federal government, which has mandated new and expanded programs over the years, requiring partial funding by the state in order to receive U.S. financing.

Three other agencies have also become billion-dollar departments in the past 14 years: Higher Education, Revenue and Transportation.

The only item in the current budget year that represents a decrease in state expenditures is the Public Debt category, which reached $156 million in the Ashcroft budget and dropped to $109.5 million for Holden's current budget period.

Departments that have become so-called half-billion-dollar agencies over the 14-year span include the Office of Administration, Department of Corrections, Department of Mental Health and Department of Health and Senior Services.

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