The St. Louis Post Dispatch has published a guest editorial written by State Auditor Tom Schweich defending his position in a lawsuit against Governor Nixon.
“I read with dismay the Post-Dispatch Aug. 30 editorial accusing me of caring more about my budget than the recovery of Joplin. The editorial claims that I filed a lawsuit against the governor because I ‘want the court and the public to believe that [my] budget is more important than helping a city rebuild from one of the worst natural disasters in our state’s history.’ The editorial is dishonest, and it will serve to further erode the public’s confidence in this newspaper.”
Schweich goes on to say that “Nixon’s budget director could not provide any accounting data to support the over $170 million in withholding for programs such as Parents as Teachers, Bright Flight Scholarship, Domestic Violence Grants, Office of the Child Advocate and Medicaid. There were no invoices, estimates, analyses or other calculations. It appeared this number was simply plucked from thin air.”
He says the governor has exceeded his legal authority by withholding these funds before the start of the fiscal year and without evidence that actual revenues are less than revenue estimates, and reallocating the withheld funds in violation of the separation of powers.
“Both are violations of the express language of the Missouri Constitution. I sued only after the governor overtly rejected my recommendation that he work with the Legislature to resolve this issue.”
Governor Nixon says he does have the authority to withhold the funds to help Joplin and other disaster stricken areas of the state recover.
“Fiscal discipline is important. Maintaining flexibility has been something the governor has done by sequestering and making sure … I mean, over the last couple of years I’ve had to hold back on what the appropriation authority was on a number of occasions, obviously those governors have that authority,” Nixon says. “That’s why we’re Triple A, that’s why Standard and Poor specifically mentioned that recentrly when they reaffirmed our Triple A credit rating.”
Schweich says “even good intentions must be effected lawfully, and there are many lawful ways to accomplish this objective. Third World dictators often use emergencies as an excuse for suspending the constitution and rule of law … [but] we cannot allow it to happen in Missouri.”