The state’s budget director tells House Republicans the Nixon Administration’s budget office is willing to work with legislative budget makers to change how the state pays dues to organizations its agencies and elected officials belong to.
Republicans called attention this week to the paying of dues to the National Governors Association out of the budget for the Department of Social Services’ administration. For three years that added up to more than $390,000 dollars.
Budget committee members including Representative Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) feel they appropriated money to be used by that agency, not to pay organization dues.
“We feel like we’ve been duped, I think it what it really boils down to, intentional or not,” Rowden told State Budget Director Linda Luebbering. “It’s absolutely and unequivocally wrong, and there’s no other way to put it.”
Luebbering told the committee she doesn’t have the authority to commit to changing how dues are paid, but said she would talk with others in the Nixon Administration and future legislative budget makers about the issue.
“I have committed that we are willing to work with the House and Senate to see if we can’t come to agreement on how to do this differently in the future.”
Republicans say the appearance is that the paying of the Governors Association dues was being hidden, but Luebbering says that was not the intention.
“There are dues paid in a lot of different places in appropriations. They don’t have specific line items. This is not any different from the other ones,” Luebbering told lawmakers. “Clearly we felt it was appropriate, clearly previous administrations have paid it from various places as well.”
Luebbering notes other expenses such as food are also covered out of administrative appropriations that don’t have specific line items. She says the expenditures can be found on the Missouri Accountability Portal.
“We think it is just as transparent as any other dues that are paid in state government,” says Luebbering.
Representative Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) disagrees, and calls the expenditures, “clearly not transparent, extremely opaque.”
Representative Robert Ross (R-Yukon) says “incredible” is that the Governors Association dues were paid out of the Social Services budget in September of 2013, three months into the fiscal year’s budget.
“If that’s the case, clearly we have been over appropriating to Children’s Division, Social Services, the whole gamut, if they already know at that point that they have extra money and can say, ‘Hey, let’s pay the Governors Dues on this.’”
Kelly says the only way such expenditures will stop is if future budget committees do a more extensive job of going over the state budget.
“I think we are not doing as good a job managing the budget as Jeremiah Nixon is at spending the money,” says Kelly. “We’ve seen example after example of example of that brilliance, about how he finds ways to spend the money in ways that we don’t authorize.”
Kelly suggested twice the amount spent on dues be removed from the governor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016.
House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) in his comments Friday on the end of the regular session of the General Assembly hinted that work to review such expenditures will continue during the legislative interim.