Two state lawmakers want to ask voters whether the power of governors to withhold money should be changed. Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) says questions regarding the limit of that power have remained unanswered for too long.

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Todd Richardson (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Everybody, I think, agrees that the Governor needs the ability to withhold funds when there is an actual decline in state revenue and an actual downturn in the economy, but that needs to be the extent of it.”

Richardson accuses Governor Jay Nixon of making politically motivated withholds to influence the actions of the legislature. He cites $400-million withheld in June pending the fate of Nixon’s veto of a tax cut bill, HB 253. That veto was not overturned during the veto session Wednesday, then yesterday the Governor released about $215-million of that money.

“There was absolutely no financial reason for the Governor to put every school district in the state in the middle of the discussion of HB 253. Every higher education institution, every nursing home, every home health agency … all of those groups, and others, were put into the middle of a political fight purely for political purposes.”

Richardson plans to propose a constitutional amendment in the 2014 legislative session that would clarify the definition of a governor’s withholding authority. Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) will offer a similar proposal in that chamber.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this year by lawyers for State Auditor Tom Schweich (R), who sued Nixon for withholding funds in the fiscal year 2012 budget. The Court has not handed down a decision in that case.