Thursday, March 5, 2009

Facing our state's economic challenges

By Dan Brown

State Representative, 149th District


We are in the middle of one of the most horrible economic situations our generation has ever seen. Missourians are losing jobs left and right and many of you are wondering how you will continue to provide for your families if things continue to get worse. You are probably looking for ways to spend less and save more, cutting out any extras that you don’t need. Much like your family budget, we are looking for ways to tighten the State budget. We believe in the creation and execution of responsible government spending. If we continue to make tough decisions with the budget, we will be much better off in the years to come.

On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee met for the first time this session. Their job is to decide which programs and departments to fund as well as which ones we must cut back in effort to stabilize our budget. As you can imagine, this is one of the most difficult jobs in State government.

The education of our children is imperative to a successful national future. The House plans to fully fund elementary and secondary education and the Foundation Formula. We made a promise to financially support our schools and provide the tools necessary to educate young Missourians, and we will keep that promise. Our future demands it.

Unfortunately, in order to practice fiscal responsibility, we can’t fully fund all programs. Cuts will have to be made. However, due to our past four years of wise budget planning, these cuts will be less severe than those that we see in states like Illinois, California, Ohio and Wisconsin. Although we never expected an economy this devastating, we saw hard times coming. That is why we made tough budget decisions that resulted in a $281 million savings. This year, Missouri is facing a budget shortfall of $542 million. I know this may sound like a lot, but in Illinois their shortfall is into the billions. They have already stopped Medicaid payments to doctors in their state. Californians may not see their tax return this year. All Missouri will have to do is cut $261 million by June 30 to balance our budget; not the entire $542 million. We are going to survive and come out of this recession stronger and ahead of those around us.

Yes, we have our problems, but right now, Missouri is emerging as a fiscal leader. It is important that we continue to practice responsible government and do not financially overextend our State budget. Not all our decisions are easy, but I hope this helps you understand why we’ve made the tough, but necessary calls during the past four years. I can assure you that as we move through the budget process, I will work with my colleagues to limit the severity of our budget problems and turn our State’s economy around as quickly as possible. You can be certain that the House is working to secure your future and the future of your children and grandchildren.

This past week in Jefferson City local leaders had the opportunity to meet with Linda Martinez, Director of the Department of Economic Development, the State Highway and Transportation Commission, Director of Transportation Pete Rahn and his staff. There was a great turnout from area businessmen and women, local and county government officials. Rolla City Administrator John Butz presented the overall transportation plan for the Rolla area and how transportation is directly tied to economic development by good paying jobs.

Dr. Jack Carney and Keith Strassner of the University of Missouri Science and Technology presented the University’s overall Technology Park Plan and its potential impact on high tech job growth, therefore, tying the importance of transportation to the growth of higher education in Rolla, Missouri.

Elizabeth Bax, Executive Director of the Rolla Regional Economic Commission presented the overall case for transportation needs of the community and the relationship to economic development and higher education growth.

I am very proud to have been present for the entire program and express my support. Kudos to the presenters! You presented our area and position very well. We got the attention of the State Highway and Transportation Commissioners. I felt it was important to inform the constituency that a lot of capable and concerned people are working hard to bring good, high paying and interesting jobs to our area.

Remember, this is your State government. Help me keep it that way by keeping me informed. Please feel free to contact me at 573-751-5713 or by email at dan.brown@house.mo.gov.

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