Perspective: Budget must reflect reality

Last Monday, I was pleased to join Dr. Kevin Rome, Reps. Barnes and Bernskoetter, Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph, Randy Allen and other state and local leaders to announce that St. Mary’s Health Center will be giving their current facility to the state of Missouri, who will in turn partner with Lincoln University to expand its nursing school facilities.

This is great news for Jefferson City, Central Missouri and the entire state. St. Mary’s and Lincoln University are pillars in the Jefferson City community and critical to the Central Missouri economy. This partnership is a good statewide investment that will better equip students to step into highly technical, high-paying jobs in the medical field. It is far more than a simple earmark for Jefferson City. I look forward to this partnership and tip my hat to the governor and his staff for moving quickly to take advantage of this gracious opportunity.

On Tuesday, the governor delivered his annual State of the State address and unveiled his proposed budget for the 2015 fiscal year. For the first time since I have been in the Senate, and for the first time in many years before that, the governor’s office and the Legislature did not agree on a “consensus revenue estimate.” A consensus revenue estimate, as the name implies, is an agreed upon estimate of revenues that the state expects to collect, which in turn determines the amount of money to be budgeted. The net effect of this failure to arrive at a consensus revenue estimate is that the governor proposed a larger budget because his estimates assume a 5.2 percent growth in revenue, one percent more than the Legislature’s more modest estimate of 4.2 percent growth. Additionally, the governor’s proposed budget contains a significant amount of federal money, federal money that comes with federal strings and requirements.

Each year the Legislature has one, and only one, thing that it must do: pass a budget. In the coming months I will be a part of this process. As a member of the appropriations committee, I will look for investments that have a positive return on the dollars spent, exactly what I believe the St. Mary’s project to be. I believe we have the responsibility to craft a budget that most closely resembles reality, meaning we should develop a budget that is based upon the most realistic revenues possible.

Based upon my experiences as a small business owner and in my household, it has always proved prudent to craft a budget using more conservative estimates. Government is not an exception to this rule, especially when the governor has the sole discretion on withholdings if revenue realities do not match optimistic estimates. Missourians had great wisdom to demand and codify that their state government operate within a balanced budget, and a critical part of meeting that demand is to build a budget based upon realistic estimates and projections. To do otherwise may allow for political grandstanding and back-slapping, though none of that matters if funding does not materialize.

The priorities of adequately funding education, improving Missouri’s business climate to increase employment, reducing government regulations, limiting the size and scope of government in the day-to-day lives of Missourians, and competitive compensation for state employees are not dependent upon an additional one percent in revenues. If that were the case, they would not be priorities, they would be accessories. There will never, ever be enough money to satisfy the wish-lists of politicians who have long since forgotten that the money they spend is your money, regardless of whether it is paid directly to the state, or whether it is first passes through the ever-growing, greedy hands of the federal government.

My purpose and intent is to serve the constituents of the 6th Senatorial District. If you are in the Capitol, please stop by your office in Room 220.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, represents the 6th District.

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