It’s close to impossible to argue with the logic of many state budget cuts, but that doesn’t change the “pay me now or pay me later” aspect of many of them.




Missouri is struggling to keep its books balanced, and continued declining revenues mean continued cuts in services. The easy cuts were gone several hundred millions of dollars ago.

It’s close to impossible to argue with the logic of many state budget cuts, but that doesn’t change the “pay me now or pay me later” aspect of many of them.
Missouri is struggling to keep its books balanced, and continued declining revenues mean continued cuts in services. The easy cuts were gone several hundred millions of dollars ago.

Here’s one small example of the dilemmas now upon us: The 2011 budget that legislators approved this month included a $1 million cut to the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. The effect is a staff cut of more than half, from 41 full-time employees to just 17. Again, many state agencies and many private employers have been dealing with about the same math and coming up with about the same result.

But consider where this leads. This is an agency that works to keep liquor and tobacco out of the hands of teenagers. It’s illegal to sell either to anyone under 21. Those are good laws with broad support, but laws need to be enforced. When state or local authorities look, they routinely turn up plenty of violations.

Far too many people turn toward a life of pain and diminished dreams because they pick up the bottle when they’re still very young, and virtually all smokers start before they can legally buy a pack. That’s why the laws are needed.

State officials say some of the enforcement load now will have to fall on local authorities. Really? How does that work exactly? Show us one police chief anywhere in our state who isn’t facing more demands than dollars already.

The effect of this cut is simple: More young people will drink, and more will smoke – illegally and destructively. As is abundantly evident, both habits come with high personal and societal costs – many borne by taxpayers – down the road. Pay me now or pay me later.