In last Saturday’s blog post regarding the disagreement between the Missouri governor and the legislature about state revenue estimates, I mentioned marking-up legislation. Marking-up basically means that members of a Missouri House committee are taking an introduced piece of legislation and amending it to fit their preferences (e.g., the Budget Committee and the Budget).
Usually, when crafting the budget, the House Budget Committee starts with the governor’s executive budget as introduced legislation. It then assigns these introduced bills to different appropriations committees depending on the department being funded. However, due to the disagreements about expected state revenues, the House is not doing that this year. Instead, the House is working off of last year’s budget and making changes based on that.
The House is doing this mainly for the sake of appearances. Representatives don’t want to be seen as cutting spending in popular areas such as education when compared to what the governor introduced in his budget. That’s understandable, but unnecessary. The House should fund education at the levels it believes are proper given the constraints that limited state revenues impose. If that happens to be less than what the governor suggests, then so be it. If it’s less than what was spent last year, that is fine as well. Don’t spend more just because you want to be seen as spending more.
The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Rick Stream, has asked appropriators to go line-by-line through the budget and find items to cut in order to free money for other, more important programs. The Show-Me Institute has highlighted several areas which appropriators could cut, such as ethanol subsidies. Hopefully, we can see some cuts to non-essential areas.
Creating a budget is arguably the most important task the legislature has every year. Being informed of how that process works is something worth knowing. The House really wants you to know that it plans to increase spending, just less than the governor does. Hopefully, representatives will get to a point where they can justify the spending levels they set, whether it is more or less than last year.