House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey and Rep. Sara Lampe speak to reporters

Leaders from the House Budget Committee call on Governor Nixon to release $70 million in school transportation funding withheld when state revenue failed to meet expectations. But the governor’s office says though state revenue has bounced back, it hasn’t rebounded enough to take that step.

Nixon withheld the $70 million when state revenue fell short of projections. State revenue has been making a comeback, now coming in ahead of projections.

House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, said the turnaround should lead to the governor releasing the money.

“I’m not personally prepared to say, ‘Hey, write a check for $70 million today.’ I would be happy if he would release it incrementally and make sure that revenues continue to stay up and do that in a reasonable manner,” Silvey said during a news conference held in his Capitol office. “But to continue to voluntarily withhold these funds and use it to build a cash balance that he intends to carry over to the next fiscal year, at least that’s our assumption, I just don’t think we should be playing budgetary games with education like that.”

The state legislature crafted a $23 billion budget for the current fiscal year, FY 2011, based on a belief that state revenue would grow by 3.6%. That increase didn’t materialize when the budget began July 1st of 2010. In fact, the projected growth of state tax revenue was revised downward to 2.2% by the time the legislature approved and the governor signed the budget. Nixon exercised his constitutional authority to balance the budget by withholding money, including the $70 million in transportation funding withheld from public schools.

An uptick in state revenue has been apparent the last couple of months. General Revenue, according to the House Budget Committee office, is now up 5.9%, up $209 million dollars more than half way through the fiscal year. Silvey said Nixon can no longer justify the withholding.

Nixon has released $7.5 million in school transportation withholdings, but Scott Holste, a spokesman for the governor, tells the Missourinet the governor has no plans to release the rest, a least not yet.

“Frankly, it’s just way too early to say that our situation will be improved enough to be able to have any of the other restrictions released,” according to Holste.

Holste says state revenues would have to come in significantly higher for the governor to feel comfortable enough to release the additional school transportation withholdings.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:20 MP3]