"With receipts down and demand for further growth in the budget, we are in trouble."
These were stark words coming from Senate Appropriations chairman John Russell of Lebanon, Mo. Russell was describing the bleak reality facing lawmakers and budget planners in the executive branch as they begin work on the fiscal year 2004 state budget.
Russell says state budgeteers are looking at having to plug a $400 million hole in the budget for the next fiscal year, which will begin July 1.
Gov. Bob Holden withheld $826 million in authorized spending from the 2002 budget, mostly from higher education. Lawmakers followed that by reducing spending $892 million for the current budget. The current budget marks the first decline in state spending plans in many years.
This year's budget was balanced when Holden signed it last summer, but it may not stay that way. State budget director Linda Luebbering says collections for the current fiscal year are running $67 million below projections made last spring. Still more reforms, previously not considered, are on the table. Other senators on the Appropriations Committee suggest that instead of automatically approving previous spending levels plus an increase, departments must be required to justify that spending each year before asking for more. This will involve scrutinizing what budgeteers call the core budget of each department.