Governor Jay Nixon says the recommendation by a House-Senate budget conference committee that the budget for the Division of Motor Vehicles within the Department of Revenue be cut by a third is “unprecedented,” and endangers the state’s fiscal standing.
The Committee’s co-chairs said the intent of that cut is to fund the Division for eight months. Its remaining funding would then be subject to a supplemental budget process when the legislature returns next year, if the Department of Revenue changes its licensing procedures to end the scanning and retention of documents from Missouri driver’s license applicants.
Nixon says the conference committee’s budget proposal flies in the face of years of Missouri budget making and could jeopardize Missouri’s AAA credit rating. He says if that budget proposal reaches his desk, he will have no choice.
“I will reduce staff and services accordingly, including making the necessary layoffs, effective July 1.”
The state budget director says how many people could be laid off and other specifics of such cuts are not known.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) co-chaired that conference committee. He says there is no reason the legislature could not appropriate only a portion of a Department’s annual budget.
“It’s not something that is out of the ordinary for a lot of businesses … to play for an 8 month period to make sure that things happen, and in this case we clearly had the intent that if the Department did what we wanted as far as the scanning of documents that we would fund them fully once we got back in January.”
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) says layoffs and cuts are unnecessary.
“Provided that they are on the right track, the Governor is no longer doing the illegal things through the Department of Revenue, we made it very clear we would fund the rest of their budget for the rest of the year. There is absolutely no reason for the Governor to lay off. If he wants to do that … that’s his call.”
Schaefer also says the Governor’s claim that the conference budget plan threatens Missouri’s credit rating is “absurd.”
Representative Jeanne Kirkton (D-Webster Groves) is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee and was one of the House conferees. She says Nixon is probably making the “right call.”
She says she and other members of her caucus had concerns with the partial appropriation to DMV.
“The other aspect of it that is unclear to me is we have contracts with MorphoTrust, for example, that are written on an annual basis. How is that going to work? Those contracts may be just built on our appropriations but if we start laying off people here that’s going to affect everything down the line.”
MorphoTrust is the Georgia company that the Department of Revenue contracted with to print Missouri driver’s licenses under its new licensing procedures. That contract was also cut by one-third in the conference committee proposal.
The Constitution requires the legislature pass a budget by Friday.
AUDIO: Mike Lear interviews House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, 3:55
AUDIO: Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer’s media conference, 6:54