Governor Nixon gives no indication that he will release education funding he has withheld, despite continued calls from legislators to do so.
House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican from Perryville, has joined the chorus from the Missouri House, calling on Governor Nixon to release the $70 million in transportation funding he has withheld from public schools.
“I’m not saying release all the money, I just think he’s withheld far, far too much if we’re ahead of our Consensus Revenue Estimate,” Tilley tells reporters at the Capitol. “And for a guy who campaigned all around the state about providing more scholarships, about improving funding for education, he’s withholding it when the money is clearly there.”
The House Budget Committee chairman has called on Nixon to release the transportation funding he has withheld. The chairman argues that state tax revenue has improved sufficiently to justify releasing at least a portion of the $70 million.
The governor did release $7 ½ million, but Nixon tells reporters he took that action simply to offset a rise in the cost of fuel. He says he has no plans to release the remaining money. Nixon isn’t as confident as Tilley that the money is there.
“If you look at what’s in your bank account the day before the house payment gets withdrawn, you’ve got to understand the house payment is going to get withdrawn,” Nixon says. “So, we watch the cash balance very carefully.”
The Nixon Administration has acknowledged that tax revenues have improved. The governor and officials within the administration, though, say they want to see a bit more, with tax refunds on the horizon, unemployment still high and consumer spending still low. The governor says plenty of reasons remain to withhold the money.
Tilley says lawmakers watch the numbers closely, as well and they see it differently. Tilley not only questions Nixon’s actions, he questions whether Nixon has exceeded the power the governor has to withhold money to keep the state budget balanced.
“I’m not sure, but I think it’s an important question that should be answered: does he have the legal authority to do that?” Tilley states, insisting that a governor doesn’t have the right to withhold money appropriated by the legislature if revenue comes in as projected.
Despite that statement, Tilley says he has no interest at this time to press the issue in court.