Legislative Report from Representative Tony Dugger

Though the weather outside was frightful, the Missouri House still had a productive week inside the Missouri State Capitol. While winter storm Nika was busy dropping several inches of snow Tuesday and Wednesday numerous committees met to evaluate legislation before sending it to the House floor for full debate.

In addition to committee work, the House officially submitted the first version of the fiscal year 2015 state budget. As a starting point, the House Budget Committee Chairman, Representative Rick Stream, filed copies of the appropriations bills from last year’s legislative session. Much like a personal budget, the House looks at it proposed spending from the previous year, then looks at the state’s income for the upcoming year, and then, through the committee process, formulates a proposed budget for the upcoming year.

Time and time again, the Governor has proposed an unrealistic budget, this year was no different. In fact, this year the Governor’s budget is at least $310 million of balance based on revenue estimates agreed to by the House, Senate, and University of Missouri economic experts. Luckily, the Governor’s proposals are just that, proposals. It is up to the House and Senate to actually formulate a truly balanced budget. The budget bills the House will work from contain approximately $24.8 billion in funding. In comparison, the Governor’s proposed budget calls for more than $27.8 billion in spending.

Not only has the Governor routinely proposed outlandish spending; he has made it a habit to withhold budgeted dollars when he does not get his way. In fact, the Governor has never gone through a fiscal year without issuing withholds. Just this year, as the Governor stood before the House and Senate and proposed the largest spending increase in Missouri’s history, he was still withholding $135 million from the current fiscal year’s appropriated funds. The Governor seems to not even care that the Missouri Constitution clearly states in Article IV, Section 27 that “(the Governor) may reduce the expenditures of the state or any of its agencies below their appropriations whenever the actual revenues are less than the revenue estimates upon which the appropriations were based”

Despite these constitutional restrictions the Governor continually plays politics with budgeted dollars. In doing so, Governor Nixon has the ability to circumvent the constitutional budgeting process and hand pick his own list of agencies to receive or not receive funding. In order to return the Missouri budget process back to the process outlined in the Missouri Constitution, Representative Todd Richardson filed HJR 72 in late January.

HJR 72, is a proposed constitutional amendment which requires the Governor not to reduce any appropriation for the payment of public debt, and to notify the General Assembly by proclamation whenever the rate of expenditure of any appropriation is not equally expended in any quarterly allotment or the Governor reduces one or more or a portion of an appropriation of money because actual revenues are less than the revenue estimate the appropriations were based on. The appropriation can be reconsidered in the same manner as a bill is reconsidered anytime the General Assembly is in session or when the next General Assembly convenes.

If HJR 72 passes the House and the Senate it would then go before the people of Missouri for a statewide vote before ultimately being implemented. HJR 72 simply add legislative oversight to the Governor’s withholding ability, protecting education, higher education, and other vital state services from Governor Nixon’s history of political games.

Just a reminder, I am still conducting an online survey for this legislative session. If you wish to participate, please visit the House of Representatives website, www.house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.