Proposals would curb governor’s power to withhold from education

Following years of watching Gov. Jay Nixon withhold funding they had appropriated for schools, Missouri lawmakers are considering legislation that would strip or reduce the governor’s power to withhold from education.

During the summer of 2013, Gov. Nixon temporarily took $66 million from the General Assembly’s appropriation for K-12. The governor’s move came as lawmakers were considering overriding his veto of a tax cut bill. The education withholding was part of the governor’s overall $400 million funding freeze. Most of that funding was later released following the legislature’s unsuccessful attempt to override his veto.

Two lawmakers this session are offering constitutional amendments to change this dynamic. A Senate proposal would disallow the governor from withholding from K-12 education while a House proposal would give lawmakers new powers to override the governor’s school funding freezes.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, has sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 45, which was approved unanimously by a Senate committee this week. Sen. Silvey’s proposal would hold K-12 education funding and debt payments as untouchable by the governor once they have been appropriated.

Silvey said his joint resolution amounted to ensuring “that money we’ve appropriated actually makes it to its intended purpose.”

Also this week, the House Committee on General Laws passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff. Rep. Richardson’s proposal differs from Sen. Silvey’s in that it would retain the governor’s ability to withhold education funding while giving new power to the General Assembly to override the governor’s withholdings. Rep. Richardson’s legislation is House Joint Resolution 72.

During Senate testimony on Sen. Silvey’s proposal, education proponents testified that the governor’s withholdings have made financial planning extremely difficult. They said that if the constitution was changed and the legislature’s appropriations were the final word, there would be much greater stability as school districts plan their budgets.

The constitutional change would also further clarify that educational funding should be held as a priority over nearly all other state expenses. The state’s constitution already has a section describing the order of how state money should be appropriated. Education is listed second, after only paying the state’s debt.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry supports changes that provide stability and give appropriate funding to our state’s education system as today’s business leaders will need highly educated workers to compete in a global marketplace.

For more information about education issues please contact, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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