If you did not go to the Eggs and Issues breakfast Tuesday, you missed a rare opportunity to talk with the leadership of the State House.
The main topic was the economic crisis facing the state.
District 5 State Representative Bill Konopnicki related that the state's economy would probably not receive the new car sales and housing starts we have been used to. In the past, these indicators pushed the economy. Since both economic indicators are very healthy at this time, our challenge now is finding ways to restart the economy.
According to State Senator Ken Bennett, the new legislative session is going to be tough. Everyone is concerned about increasing revenue throughout the state, controlling or capping expenditures, reducing the cost to provide existing services and programs, and still fund all mandated programs.
Bennett noted that we have four state agencies that receive the lion's share of the general budget:
- Education receives more than 50 percent of the funding;
- Community Welfare snags 10 percent;
- Health Services and the Department of Economic Security are allotted about 20 percent;
- Prisons/Corrections grab another 10 percent.
The agencies get nearly 90 percent of the $6.1 billion of the general fund. The total state budget is approximately $17.1 billion.
Bennett said that the rest of the state's budget is made up of another $11 billion for all the multiple agencies, programs and line items.
State Senator Jack Brown feels that taxing can dampen a recovery. Sometimes, though, taxes must be raised to fund obligations. He added that rural counties in the state should get a share of "shared revenue" instead of their shares going to the major cities.
Konopnicki said that as we impose new taxes, we hurt businesses, tourism and sales. With every tax, someone must pay.
House speaker-elect Jake Flake thought that the five main issues before the Legislature this year will be budget, budget, budget, budget and budget.
Water will be the next issue. Without water, our area cannot grow and without a stable supply, our economic development will suffer.
Brown would like to see many of the unfunded mandates of the federal government stopped. Flake wants to see a reduction in regulations both at the federal level and within the state. As we cut back on budgets, we also must cut back on regulations, he said. He feels the state must be more pro-business and let business help us recover from our recession.
I encourage you to share your ideas and comments with your legislative leaders. They work for you and chamber members alike. Call (800) 352-8404 for e-mail addresses and office phone numbers.