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UPDATE: Nixon gives details of $60M cut from Missouri budget

Thursday, August 20, 2009 | 7:52 p.m. CDT; updated 10:21 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 8, 2009

 JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon's administration announced Thursday details of $60 million in state budget cuts that will include trimming about 200 more state jobs through layoffs and leaving vacant positions unfilled.

Nixon, a Democrat, has vetoed or restricted spending $430 million for the budget year that started July 1. The Missouri General Assembly approved a $23 billion operating budget, plus a two-year, $600 million capital improvements bill that included various projects funded with federal stimulus money.

Many of the $60 million in cuts affect state workers, even after the operating budget approved by lawmakers called for cutting 1,244 positions. Thursday's cuts also restrict employee travel and training sessions.

Nixon's budget director, Linda Luebbering, said many cuts focused on state workers because the governor wants to trim state payrolls before affecting programs.

"The first place the governor wants to go is to try to downsize state government as much as we can before we hit services," Luebbering said. "Certainly the focus has been on trying to reduce the size of state government."

The cuts were spread throughout state agencies, but the biggest hits came to the Department of Social Services at $16.3 million, the Department of Economic Development at $11.3 million and the Department of Corrections at $7 million.

Besides affecting workers, state agencies said spending restrictions could result in longer wait times for those seeking to have driver's licenses reinstated, reduce the number of disabled people receiving services through independent living centers and cut down on state meat inspections and animal disease control monitoring.

State police agencies also reported that $2.4 million in cuts to the Department of Public Safety could reduce their activities. For example, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said it would work to use less gas and cut back on assignments at the State Fair and MU football games.

The state Tourism Commission says it will need to cut spending on salaries and equipment because of a $7 million cut.

The budget with-holdings announced Thursday block money from being spent, so if state revenue improves, Nixon can later reverse them. Luebbering said the cuts would drop spending for the current budget year to match anticipated revenue, so further cuts won't be necessary unless state revenue continues to fall.

House Budget Chairman Allen Icet said making difficult budget decisions in the summer means emergency action is less likely to be needed in the spring. Icet, R-Wildwood, said everyone is looking at the national economy and wondering when conditions will improve.

"We're all waiting for the miracle to return and the sunshine to be back, and we won't have to do painful things," he said.

Nixon told state agencies they would be asked to trim the $60 million when he signed the state budget in June. Among the proposals was a $1.5 million cut to the Tour of Missouri bicycle race that prompted outrage from the event's supporters. Race organizers argued cutting the state funds from the cross-state race's $3.3 million budget would have forced it to be canceled and likely never run again.

The funds for next month's race later were allowed to be spent.


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