Missouri lawmakers are trying to figure how to run the state more efficiently after a shortfall has led to a funding freeze for some programs.
Several Republicans at a Tuesday budget hearing expressed concern state agencies may not be spending money wisely.
Representative Kirk Mathews(R- Pacific) claims residents he speaks to are skeptical the state’s exercising proper oversight. “The single greatest frustration is that there is no accountability to performance measures in government” said Mathews. “Do we have a revenue problem or do we have a spending problem, and how can we ensure that we are spending our dollars appropriately that people are being held accountable to performance with the resources that the taxpayers provide them with.”
The state will need tax collections to increase at least six percent over the current fiscal year to avoid more withholds of funding.
Governor Jay Nixon withheld $115.5 million in spending when revenues fell short of expectations in the last year. Acting state Budget Director Dan Haug says putting a hold on funding is sometimes necessary to keep the state in good standing. “Many times when we get our bond ratings, and one of the reasons we are rated triple-a, is that they appreciate that we act quickly when we see that we are having some financial problems. We don’t just, sort of, sweep it under the rug like some other states directly to our east.”
Several lawmakers in the hearing also inquired about slow delivery of tax refunds in the last fiscal year. Haug said the problem had to do with cash flow problems and monitoring for fraud.
It’s not unusual for the state to experience cash flow problems when money is scheduled to come in after bills become due. At such times, the state can borrow from its reserve fund, and replenish it once the revenue arrives.
Haug said the state couldn’t borrow money to make sure tax refund were delivered promptly, because it’s constitutionally prohibited from dipping into the reserve fund in the final six weeks of the fiscal year, meaning from mid May through the end of June.