Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday slashed $146 million from the current budget — more than half coming from higher education spending — to try to keep it balanced for the fiscal year.
But for a guy who self-proclaims he’s going to be a truth-teller, someone not beholden to the old ways of doing business in Jefferson City, Greitens partly misled the public about why he had to do that.
All of this is going to sound familiar to Kansans who are battling huge budget problems because of Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts.
In a message delivered on Twitter, the new Republican chief executive trotted out Obamacare and the “previous administration” as the main culprits for these detailed cuts. Wrong — at least for the most part.
We're taking the first steps to balance Missouri's unbalanced budget. pic.twitter.com/Q5ZVMrAtnO
— Eric Greitens (@EricGreitens) January 16, 2017
In reality, the budget was approved by the GOP-dominated General Assembly. That’s right: Greitens’ own party.
Plus, slow revenue growth has caused some of Missouri’s problems. That’s not because of former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon or the Affordable Care Act.
That gets us to this inconvenient fact for Greitens and the GOP.
One of the main problems with the current budget has been a collapse in corporate tax revenue. The tax collections dropped more than $150 million last year and are down an estimated $65 million more this year. Why?
Because bills passed in 2013 and 2015 have made it easier for some businesses “to reduce their Missouri tax liability,” according to this detailed explanation from the Missouri Budget Project.
And things could get even worse in the next fiscal year budget, which Greitens plans to unveil in February.
That’s because even more Republican-approved tax cuts (over the veto of Nixon) are expected to kick in by then. The tax reductions could slice state revenues by $50 million in the first year, which isn’t a huge deal.
But the GOP-passed bill calls for bigger tax cuts as the years roll by. The Missouri Budget Project says the fully implemented bill could cost the state “at least $620 million a year….”
The hardest hit in Greiten’s message were major state universities, with up to $76 million in cuts.
Let’s be clear: That kind of action bodes extremely poorly for Kansas City’s attempt to get $48 million in state matching funds from the General Assembly in 2017 to help build the new downtown Campus for the Arts. What a huge setback that could be for downtown and UMKC.
It would be great for Greitens to be more honest with Missourians in the future about why he’s having to trim state spending.
Pointing to the excessive tax cuts approved in the past by his own political party in the General Assembly would be an accurate place to start.