November 21, 2014

Nixon withholds small part of state funding, GOP angry (AUDIO)

Governor Nixon is withholding about 1.6% of the state budget for the fiscal year starting Monday—and Republican legislators who controlled the writing of that budget are pretty unhappy about it.  But Nixon  says he’s withholding $400-million because the legislature might override his veto of what he considers an ill-advised tax bill and because of the legislature’s approval of new spending and its failure to expand Medicaid.

The troublesome bill (HB253 vetoed earlier this month) is a package of individual and corporate tax cuts that Nixon says has the potential to blow a $1.2-billion dollar hole in the budget if Congress passes an internet sales tax bill.  He calls the withholdings a down payment on later reductions he might have to make.

His withholdings are not vetoes.  He can restore those funds if the troublesome tax bill is not enacted over his veto.  The withholdings come from 56 parts of the budget.  But about 60% of the withholds are in only a half-dozen categories generally defined as education, capital improvements, and proposed increases in reimbursements to Medicaid providers. 

The state budget director says the failure of the legislature to override the Governor’s veto of the tax bill could mean restoration of the withholdings.

House Budget Chairman Rick Stream says the withholds “cannot…be taken seriously with the revenue growth we are experiencing.”  Senate Appropriations chairman Kurt Schaefer of Columbia accuses Nixon of “a series of devastating withholds to education while denying Missouri citizens the same tax breaks he has supported for our state’s largest corporations.” 

House Speaker Tim Jones questions the legality of Nixon’s actions and calls the withholds “a politically-motivated stunt…a farce.”  Senate President pro Tem Tom Dempsey accuses Nixon of “overstepping” and holding “the people hostage with their own money.”

Republicans control both chambers of the legislature.  Overriding the veto will be a challenge in the House, however, where 109 votes are needed for an override.  Jones will need the support of all 109 GOP House members in September to override the bill in that chamber.  Jones fell far short of united support of his caucus on a couple of his priority bills in the session that ended in May.  The Senate has 26 Republicans and it will take 23 votes there for an override—if Jones can get the override through his chamber first. 

The veto session starts September 11.

AUDIO: Nixon press conference 29:01