Gov. Blunt spells out state’s reduction plan

Friday, March 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:07 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt spelled out Thursday how various agencies would cut nearly $240 million from their budgets for the coming fiscal year, with social services taking the hardest hit.

Among the cuts are eliminating the grandparent foster care program, temporarily shutting down the Central Missouri Correctional Center, which is six miles west of Jefferson City, and eliminating the state’s payment to keep Amtrak trains running between Kansas City and St. Louis.

When Blunt proposed his $19.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1, he suggested lawmakers pass it while leaving his new agency directors discretion to cut an additional $240 million once they became more familiar with their operations.

But lawmakers planned to determine the cuts before passing a budget. Legislation detailing agency budgets, including the cuts, hasn’t been introduced yet.

Blunt’s office said the cuts would involve eliminating nearly 1,300 state jobs, some of them vacant, in addition to the 1,456 he proposed to cut earlier. But the cuts would not reduce the state money directed to public schools or colleges and universities, which have been priority funding issues, his office said.

Many cuts will take effect within the next month, the office said.

“Our state continues to suffer from past poor spending decisions and anemic general revenue growth,” Blunt said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the members of the General Assembly in the weeks ahead to finalize a state budget that lives within the people’s means and mandates responsible stewardship of tax dollars.”

Democratic Party spokesman Jack Cardetti said Blunt’s cuts are harmful to vulnerable citizens.

“Governor Blunt’s failure to stand up to the special interests and fulfill his campaign promise to cut waste is endangering the lives of Missouri children and families,” Cardetti said.

Other cuts include reducing staffing and beds at psychiatric centers in the St. Louis area, contracting with a private company to handle child support collections and cutting therapies not covered by Medicaid for some patients, though Office of Administration Commissioner Mike Keathley said some people could be served by other programs.

Also, some programs to treat youth offenders will slow the rate of accepting new people, and substance abuse treatment for those not on Medicaid will be reduced.

Other cuts came about because agencies had updated numbers. For example, of the Department of Social Services’ $94 million in cuts, nearly $60 million is because the agency discovered the cost of prescription drugs and managed care wasn’t rising as fast as it budgeted for initially, Keathley said. Also, many cuts involve staff reductions and administrative expenses in various agencies, not direct service to people.

Keathley also said some eliminated workers could find jobs elsewhere in state government and some cuts in general revenue funding could be made up by federal money or other sources.

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