PERSPECTIVE: Speculation about issues accompanies transition

The transition process in your Missouri Capitol is fully underway.

Many offices of term limited legislators have been physically vacated and new occupants are beginning to move in.

During this time the staff members of outgoing legislators are relocated to committee hearing rooms or any vacant meeting room which is available. As of this week we no longer occupy Room 321. We have temporary quarters in Senate Committee Hearing Room 1 to handle phone calls and other correspondence.

Sen. Jane Cunningham and her staff are near completion with their move into our former office.

It is difficult to speculate on which issues will be at the forefront of the next General Assembly. We know from ongoing revenue reports the budget will again occupy a large share of attention.

Most legislators and staff agree there may be reductions approaching $600 million in the coming session. New spending will be non-existent and current expenditures will be scrutinized as never before.

Voluntary furloughs for legislative staff have already been mentioned. Small signs of recovery are seen in some categories, but the timing is not soon enough, nor large enough, to fill the budget gap which is pending.

Adding to the uncertainty of the budget process is the fact both chambers will be operating with new committee chairmen and many new members.

In the Senate, half the members of the Appropriations Committee will be new although some may have budget experience from the House. Since new members do not take office until Jan. 5, the process will be delayed as any hearings held in December will not include those legislators.

The panel appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to examine the cost and effectiveness of the state’s numerous tax credit programs is completing its task.

As expected, most individuals who testified in front of the group were there to defend current subsidies and some encouraged even more revenue to be available. This has been a contentious topic in recent legislative sessions. Given the recommendations of the committee and the current budget outlook, I expect this issue will again receive significant attention.

Comments by some returning legislators regarding past programs which were once considered sacred will no longer be exempt from the debate.

As usual, I can be reached at State Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO, 65101, or 573-751-2076, or carl_vogel@senate. mo.gov for your questions, comments, or advice.

State Sen. Carl Vogel, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri’s 6th District.

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