The Select Senate Committee on Oversight of Federal Stimulus has held its first meeting to discuss Missouri’s proposals and ideas for spending the federal dollars headed to the Show-Me State as a result of the federal stimulus package which is making its way through Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
It was an information session for Senators and onlookers as they heard from a couple of officials from the National Council of State Legislatures as they provided insight into what is happening in the stimulus process and what might happen in the coming days and weeks. The panel also heard from Paul Wilson, Governor Jay Nixon’s senior counsel for budget and finance.
Among the Senators on the panel is Jason Crowell (R-Cape Girardeau), who expressed concerns about one-time stimulus dollars for programs the state might feel obligated to finance in future years. "It’s my concern and my focus that I want to make sure we don’t take the juice from the federal government and have to go through a hard withdrawal."
An interesting exchange occurred between Senator Luann Ridgeway (R-Smithville) and Paul Wilson. Asked Ridgeway: "Do we have a fundamental agreement here that any money that we might choose to take from the federal government should be used only for non-recurring one-time expenses?"
Wilson responded, "The Governor proposed his budget last night. You can characterize any of the expenses in there any way you want."
Not satisfied with the answer she received, Ridgeway stopped Wilson and rephrased her question. "Do you believe that it is the Governor’s philosophy that we should only use this money for one-time expenditures and not in any way lock us into recurring expenditures?"
Wilson’s response: "The Governor’s philosophy is that which is set out in his speech last night and in the budget that was released this morning. All of the expenditures in there are one-time in the sense that it’s a single year operating budget."
At that point, Ridgeway stated, "We’re spinning our wheels here."
Congress is still debating the federal stimulus bill, which is expected to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to Missouri for various projects. The Legislature, working with Governor Nixon, will have to decide how best to spend these dollars in an effort to stimulate the state’s economy.