- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 11, 2017

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt on Tuesday offered strong criticism of the state budget - of another state.

The first-term Republican spoke at a news conference along the Mississippi River in St. Louis, urging Missouri lawmakers to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen neighboring Illinois.

“My message to the (Missouri) legislature is crystal clear: Don’t be like Illinois,” Schmitt said.

The Democrat-controlled Illinois Legislature last week approved a $36 billion budget that ended a more than two-year fiscal stalemate, the nation’s longest since the Great Depression. Lawmakers overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vetoes to pass the budget that includes a $5 billion income tax increase but that does not address a $130 billion shortfall in pension obligations to retired and current state workers.

Schmitt said Missouri lawmakers must act now to avoid a similar crisis. He said Missouri also has a growing pension liability that could eventually result in severe cuts of services and higher taxes.

He also said the state must work to protect its AAA credit rating and continue to shrink the size of government. And he expressed support for further tax relief, noting that as a member of the state Senate he authored two of the largest tax cuts in Missouri history, in 2011 and 2014.

Eleni Demertzis, a spokeswoman for Rauner, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Schmitt acknowledged it was unusual for a politician in one state to be critical of another, but said Illinois’ budget woes need to serve as a warning to Missouri.

“It’s also a call to action,” Schmitt said. “I really do believe that states are the laboratories for democracy. I obviously said that Illinois is the mad scientist.”

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This story has been corrected to show that Bruce Rauner is a Republican, not a Democrat.

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