The 12-Year Funk; Our View; Sagging Economy, Reinforced by Budget Cuts, Traps Missouri; OPINION

Article excerpt

Twelve years ago, Democrat Bob Holden won the 2000 Missouri governor's race and immediately got clobbered.

Jobs and industry were abandoning the state. Tax collections lagged almost 50 percent behind what had been projected when the budgets were drawn up. Mr. Holden responded with a call for 18 percent cuts in most agency budgets.

The bleeding continued. Mr. Holden kept cutting budgets. He was succeeded in 2005 by Republican Matt Blunt. He, too, had to cut budgets and declined to run for a second term. In 2008, Democrat Jay Nixon was elected and he's had to cut budgets every year, too. In his current "balanced budget without a single tax increase" re- election campaign, he's been trying to make lemonade out of it.

"We're doing things differently here in Missouri," he said on primary night. "And you know what? It's working."

No, it's not.

The Missouri Budget Project, a think tank, last week published a report called "Cutting to the Chase: What Multi-Year Budget Reductions Mean for Missourians." It reviews the cumulative effects of 12 years of declining state revenues.

The Missouri Budget Project leans to the left, but its numbers don't. There is no such thing as liberal math. Instead, the report is an indictment of Democrats and Republicans alike who, for 12 years, have been doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In fact, the decline goes back more than 12 years. "Historical data indicates that Missouri's state general revenue spending, as a percent of the economy, is lower today than it was in 1981," the report says. The general revenue fund won't recover its pre- recession purchasing power until 2029.

Some key findings:

- The school foundation formula, used to calculate the state's annual obligation to school districts, is $336 million below its statutorily required level. …