State government still working and paying the bills

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A number of constituents have contacted me asking if the federal government shutdown is affecting state government. The answer is, "no." As partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., has given way to a government shutdown and another fight over raising the debt limit looms, your state government continues to tick along.

Missourians made the responsible decision to add an amendment to the state constitution in 1982 to require a balanced budget each and every year. That means when we don't have the money to cover all our costs because less is coming in, we have to spend less.

During the recession, we made difficult, but necessary, decisions to live within our means. As a result, our state government is now more efficient, financially stable, and better prepared for the future. On the other hand, when more revenue is coming in we can spend a little more on those necessary functions of government or we can give people back the money they earned in tax cuts. This is responsible government.

Unfortunately, our U.S. Constitution does not have a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). One of the reasons for partisan gridlock in Washington and the government shutdown is out-of-control federal spending. The president and his friends in Congress continue to preach and practice a tax-and-spend policy that puts our economy at risk and places more of the burden on Missouri families.

Our federal debt is approaching $17 trillion. On Jan. 20, 2009, the day President Obama took office, the debt stood at $10.6 trillion. Since, the debt has increased by more than $6 trillion under his leadership -- the largest increase under any U.S. president. No American family or business could rack up this much debt. Government should have to make ends meet just like the rest of us.

There are attempts dating back to the 1930s at passing a BBA in Congress, but the first serious consideration didn't come until 1982, when a two-thirds majority of the Senate approved one. The House was unable to pass its version that year.

In 1995, another BBA gained traction. It passed the U.S. House and failed by just one vote in the Senate. BBAs continue to be filed every year in Congress and Missouri continues to lead the way. Our own Sen. Roy Blunt has co-sponsored an amendment six times, and Congressman Billy Long voted for a House version in 2011 and continues to support it. Every state, except Vermont, has some form of balanced budget provision. Why not the federal government?

Even with a federal government shutdown, your state government is still open, paying the bills, performing those few, necessary functions of government while encouraging personal and fiscal responsibility. Our state parks are open, we are paying state workers who build and repair our roads and patrol our highways, and we are not resorting to petty, partisan games as the president and his administration are by closing an open-air war memorial to veterans.

Congress could benefit from a healthy dose of Missouri common sense. It is my hope that the folks in Washington will wake up and realize all the borrowing and spending on unnecessary programs and government overhead is ruining the promise of prosperity and opportunity for our children and grandchildren.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480;david.sater@senate.mo.gov; or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101.