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Our Opinion: States must act to reduce future ‘fiscal cliff’ peril

A projected “fiscal cliff” scenario conjures an image of the Missouri and U.S. governments joining hands, like movie partners “Thelma and Louise,” and plunging off a precipice.

An Associated Press examination of the effect of federal spending cuts indicates Missouri will suffer a disproportionate burden among the states.

The projected loss, ironically, is based on our state’s concentration of military installations and defense contractors, which historically have bolstered Missouri’s share of federal funding.

Specifically, the Washington-based Federal Funds Information for the States projects Missouri’s share of defense cuts at more than $1 billion, which translates into 10th highest among the states.

In addition, Missouri — much like other states — is expected to lose federal funding for education, social programs and other government services.

Two concerns — one short term, another long term — are apparent.

An immediate problem centers on crafting a state budget amid federal uncertainty.

“It is extremely annoying and difficult to deal with when you’re trying to come up with a state budget that funds everything from health care to public education and everything in between,” said Senate Appropriations Budget Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, “... and the federal government has absolutely no clue on where they’re going to be on some of these major issues.”

A long-term strategy is a gradual, but concerted, effort among the states to return to the concept of federalism.

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, in part: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution ... are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

The Constitution specifically delegates some duties, including defense, to the federal government. Section 8 reads: “Congress shall have power to ... provide for the common defense ...”

Other duties, including education, have been appropriated, transferred and/or ceded to the federal government during past decades.

A lesson from the fiscal-cliff dilemma is states must be strengthened and diminish dependence on the federal government. This, of course, also will require a gradual shift of taxation from the federal level to state and local levels.

To achieve this goal, we must insist our representatives in Congress promote federalism rather than federal control.

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