From The Associated Press
The Missouri House voted Wednesday to release nearly $1 million for education and health care programs the governor had restricted, invoking for the first time a constitutional power lawmakers gained less than two years ago.
AIM supported the authorizing legislation that was approved by the voters and allowed the legislature to review the Governor’s withholdings.
Lawmakers voted Wednesday to release $575,000 for the Missouri Scholars and Fine Arts academies, two summer programs for gifted students. They also voted to release $350,000 for a program that helps people with traumatic brain injuries get rehabilitative services. The measures now head to the Senate.
The Missouri Constitution allows the governor to slow or restrict spending if revenues are falling short. But Republicans contend that Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who has blocked billions of dollars of budgeted spending over his two terms, has used spending restrictions as political leverage against lawmakers. Nixon has said those restrictions were necessary to balance the budget.
In 2014, voters approved an amendment that allows the legislature to reverse those restrictions with a two-thirds majority vote.
House budget chairman Tom Flanigan said because this process is new, Republican leadership wanted to start with inexpensive programs that deliver a significant benefit — and could pass the House with broad support.
Flanigan, a Republican from Carthage, also left open the possibility lawmakers would try to override more spending restrictions.
Some Democrats said even though the programs at issue are well worth funding, they worry Wednesday’s vote will lead to a slippery slope of spending increases.
“In five, ten years, when we’re looking at deficit budgets, understand this is how it started,” said Rep. John Rizzo, a Kansas City Democrat who serves as the minority whip.
Lawmakers will likely begin to feel pressure from interest groups and others to override more spending restrictions, said Rep. Margo McNeil, a Democrat from Florissant.