'Fiscal cliff' could affect Mo. economy, budget

'Fiscal cliff' hit on Missouri estimated at $1B in defense spending, $125M in state funding

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri could lose about $125 million in federal funding for various programs and the state's military-related economy could take a $1 billion hit, according a report looking at what to expect if officials in Washington don't reach a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff."

The estimates from the Washington-based Federal Funds Information for States show that automatic spending cuts due to begin in the new year could have disproportionate impact on Missouri because of the state's concentration of defense contractors and military installations.

Unless Congress and the White House agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan, the spending cuts will be coupled with the expiration of tax cuts enacted during President George W. Bush's administration to create what some have called a "fiscal cliff" because of the potential to send the nation back into a recession.

The Federal Funds Information for States, which tracks the effects of federal policy decisions on states, projects that Missouri's share of the defense spending cuts could total just over $1 billion — the 10th-highest amount among states.

Separately, Missouri government could lose $125.8 million in federal funding in 2013 for dozens of programs, including aid to public schools that serve a large number of low-income students, the organization said. Funding for special education, early childhood programs and food subsidies for women and children also could see sizable cuts.

"It certainly has the potential to impact multiple programs in the state of Missouri, some of those which potentially could cause increased demand on state resources. There's no doubt about that," said Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

The exact impact remains unclear, especially if federal officials reach a compromise that includes a different mix of program cuts or tax hikes.

The uncertainty lingers as Missouri officials are trying to come up with a revenue projection that will be used by Gov. Jay Nixon and lawmakers to prepare a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Perhaps even more uncertain than the specific federal spending cuts is the potential impact that the federal tax changes will have on Missouri revenues. Because Missouri's tax code is tied to the federal one in some areas, Missouri's revenues could rise or fall depending on the federal actions.

For example, an increase in the federal income tax rate for individuals could have a negative effect on state revenues, because federal taxes can be deducted from the amount of income subject to Missouri taxes, state budget director Linda Luebbering said. If the federal government reduces its standard deduction for income taxes, that could have a positive effect on Missouri's revenues, because a greater amount of income then would be subject to Missouri's taxes, Luebbering said.

Luebbering said she isn't banking on the federal tax code changes being either a boon or a bust for Missouri.

"It's pretty much going to be a wash," she said, unless the combination of federal tax hikes and spending cuts pushes the nation toward a recession, in which case tax revenues are likely to fall.

Schaefer said the amount of federally generated uncertainty facing state budget writers "is ridiculous."

"It is extremely annoying and difficult to deal with when you're trying to come up with a state budget that funds everything from health care to public education and everything in between," Schaefer said. "A major partner of yours in that process is the federal government. Yet we're coming up now on the end of the calendar year, and the federal government has absolutely no clue on where they're going to be on some of these major issues."

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