One backer of a proposed change to the state Constitution hopes Missouri voters were paying attention during this week’s veto session.
Poplar Bluff Republican Todd Richardson sponsored the resolution that became Amendment 10 on the November ballot. It would give the state legislature the power to overturn a governor’s decision to withhold money from the state budget, in addition to the power it has now to overturn a governor’s line-item veto in the budget.
Richardson says such authority could play out much like what happened on Wednesday.
“You saw the legislature go through a process of evaluating where state revenue was after the budget was passed and making a decision to override the governor on a number of the line items in the budget that he vetoed,” says Richardson.
Richardson says in addition to other differences between a budget veto and a budget withholding, the latter remains a place where he says the balance between the legislative and executive branches is off kilter.
“The one gap in area where the governor has had unchecked power, where nobody has had the ability to put any check on that, is through the governor’s power to withhold,” says Richardson.
He and other critics, mostly Republicans, accuse Democratic Governor Jay Nixon of using budget withholdings, which are not permanent and can be released later, as a way to force the legislature to do what he wants. Such was the criticism last year when Nixon withheld $400-million pending the outcome of an attempt to override his veto of an income tax cut bill. The override attempt failed and the money was later released.
Critics of the amendment, however, say that it would swing the balance of power too far back toward the legislature, because a governor is required to balance the state’s budget; a responsibility the legislature does not share.