After both sides of the political aisle predicted at least two percent growth in Missouri revenue for 2014, figures indicate that revenue actually fell about one percent. Further, lobbyist contributions to state lawmakers fell even more dramatically. Whether one had any impact on the other is unsure but money is definitely not flowing in the state of Missouri as well as it was last year.
Missouri is the only state in the country that has no laws limiting contributions from lobbyists or to political campaigns. Though several bills were introduced in 2014 to change this in one way or another, none were ratified. Political pundits in Missouri are not surprised. Political science professor, George Connor says lawmakers lack the political will to change contribution laws. He says most “don’t see it as a problem.” Nearly 75 percent of the lobbyist contributions were given to various committees or the General Assembly which makes it difficult to determine the actual recipients of the bulk of the money. Most of the funds went to receptions and meals and the income that could be directly attributed to specific individuals amounted to less than $3,000 per lawmaker. With the impact distributed this way it is little wonder that there is not much opposition to the current rules for contributions.
Lobbyist contributions in 2014 came to approximately $680,000, which amounts to a fall of about 10 percent during the same period last year, and a much higher percentage drop than that of the overall Missouri revenue. Both Democratic Governor Jay Nixon and the state legislature, which leans right, have made strides this year to cut spending in various respects, and it appears there will be more cuts necessary in the future. The decline is more significant because projections for the state’s budget were for between a two and three percent increase over 2013, depending on the source of the prediction.
Disputes between Nixon and the legislature over the cause of the diminishing returns will likely continue. The Republican majority sees the shortfall as an indication that more tax breaks are needed for businesses in order to stimulate the economy. Conservative leadership in the House may seek to overturn some of Nixon’s vetoes of tax bills designed to do just that. Representative Rick Stream, head of the House Budget Committee says they will need to investigate each bill to see exactly what course to take. He definitely believes the best way to grow the economy, though, is to “put money in the hands of Missouri people.”
Over $1 billion in budget cuts were already worked into the budget for 2015 but due to the lower than expected totals for 2014, more cuts are expected. The entire governing body in the Show Me State will have to work together to find out what adjustments still need to be made to bring the budget into alignment. Predictions of increased revenue of as much as five percent may be rethought in terms of the shortfall this year and additional cuts will be discussed in depth.
Whether the state revenue in Missouri fell because Lobbyists did not contribute enough to encourage the most effective changes or the contributions fell because the economy did not flow well enough to provide more contributions will likely be debated for some time. Regardless of the cause, however, the state needs to find a solution.
By David Morris