JEFFERSON CITY — The budget ax fell hard on Missouri's social services Tuesday as House lawmakers began the long and painful process of crafting a state spending plan amid slumping tax revenues.
If the cuts hold up, Missouri would halt funding for crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes, eliminate its operating aid for community health care centers and cut in half the state subsidies for domestic violence shelters.
Those were just a few of the roughly $60 million in state spending cuts approved Tuesday by the House Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health and Social Services as it began work on the 2011 budget.
House Budget Committee Chairmen Allen Icet has instructed the six appropriations committees that serve as a starting point for Missouri's budget to try to trim 5 percent from the $23.9 billion operating budget proposed last month by Gov. Jay Nixon.
Tuesday's decisions show that the cuts for some specific programs could far exceed that. But the cuts embraced Tuesday still could be partially or fully reversed.
Under Missouri's budget process, the spending plans approved by House appropriations committees then go to the full House Budget Committee before moving to the House floor. The budget also must pass through the Senate before going to Nixon for his signature or vetoes.
Advocates for social services warned of potential dire consequences from the cuts.