The House Committee on General Laws has given its approval to a proposed change to Missouri’s Constitution regarding the power of a governor to restrict money in the state budget.
The committee passed the proposal that would ask voters to give the legislature the power to review the withholding of money in the budget by a governor. It is offered by Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff), who told colleagues it was inspired by budget scenarios like what he says is happening now.
“The governor is still withholding $147-million dollars that we as a legislature appropriated,” says Richardson. “There’s no financial justification for that and the legislature ought to have some say in whether the governor can continue to withhold that money.”
The resolution would have a governor issue a proclamation when he or she restricts expenditure of or reduces the amount of money appropriated in the budget because actual revenues are less than the revenue estimate an appropriation was based on. The legislature could then reconsider that appropriation.
“This is a power that I expect would be rarely used,” Richardson tells the committee. “It’s no different than the power that we have over the governor making a line-item veto in the budget.”
Representative Mike Colona (D-St. Louis City) told Richardson he was concerned the proposal would have unintended consequences. He asked Richardson what would happen if a legislature appropriates money based on projections that turn out to be too high.
“How does this address that,” Colona asks, “Because what I envision is … I gotta call a special session of the legislature to come in and in essence to a supplemental budget to fix it.”
Richardson told Colona the proposal would not take away any of a governor’s authority to withhold money in a budget.
“In the situation that you describe,” he tells Colona, “I would trust that there would not be a two-thirds majority of the general assembly that would override the governor’s decision in that case.”
Colona remains unconvinced. He tells Missourinet, “We’ve had a budgetary process that has worked for decades. If we throw a monkey wrench in there, who knows about the unintended consequences? I’m not about to take that risk.”
The resolution did get one “yes” vote from a Democrat. Representative Jeremy LaFaver (D-Kansas City) told the committee he liked the idea.
“The legislative branch is where I think the power should be,” he told Richardson.
The proposal would also stipulate that the governor could not reduce appropriations for the payment of public debt.
If approved by the legislature it would go on the November ballot.