New Legislative Session Begins With Budget Woes

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JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers came back to the capitol Wednesday for the start of the legislative session and face a diminishing budget. State projections show a budget shortfall between $425,000,000 and $500,000,000 for fiscal year 2013 which starts July 1st. Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the lack of funds are mainly because of high health care costs and less federal money coming to the state.

Senate and house leaders are calling on all lawmakers to work together to create a balanced budget, hoping bipartisanship will make it easier to fix the problem.

"We've come together both Republicans and Democrats... I look for that to continue," Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles said.

"Our budget process is something to be very proud of, under the leadership of Senator Schaefer who runs that committee in a very fair way, in a very bipartisan way. And with that framework I think we're poised to face many of the challenges that face taxpayers in Missouri," Senate Minority Floor Leader Victor Callahan, D-Independence said.

House Speaker Steven Tilley spoke a similar message in his opening address to the house, asking represenatives to set their differences aside.

"I'm not suggesting we spend the next four months holding hands, to do so would be to abandon our mission to represent our constituents. But let's always remember that our common commitment to service and doing what is best for our constituents outweighs even our genuine disagreements on policy," Tilley said.

Lawmakers went on to say they are not looking to taxpayers to fix financial woes, instead they will focus on living within their means.

"Now's not the time to be talking about increasing the tax burden on any segment of our society," Mayer said.

"I think it would be ridiculous and ludicrous to ask people to pay more taxes," Callahan said.

Along with the budget battle, the house and senate leaders discussed changes to the state's school funding formula and bringing back the worker's compensation system.

The legislature will have about two weeks to work on the budget before Governor Nixon presents his budget proposal on January 17th.