Déjà vu: Governor holds education hostage in effort to deter veto override attempts

Gov. Nixon announced on June 24 that he would withhold nearly a billion from K-12 and higher education and other public services. It is a maneuver the Democrat governor has used before in an attempt to pit the education community against Republican lawmakers and thwart an override attempt of numerous bills the governor has vetoed in recent weeks.

“The governor is putting politics ahead of policy, once again, and it is getting old,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan. “It’s petty and only hurts the students he claims he is trying to protect.”

Earlier this year, Missouri lawmakers succeeded in passing a number of bills to block an overreach of Missouri’s Department of Revenue and invest in some of tomorrow’s most promising employment sectors. Gov. Nixon vetoed these bills and Republican lawmakers countered by promising to override his vetoes. It appears lawmakers have the votes to be successful in this effort.

However, by threatening withholds, the governor is pulling the education community and other groups that rely on public funding into the fight.

Voters will have an opportunity to rein in Gov. Nixon’s ability to leverage budget withholds in legislative battles. House Joint Resolution 72, which passed the General Assembly in 2014, proposes amending the Missouri Constitution to require the governor to run future budget restrictions on education and other public services through the legislature. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican from Poplar Bluff.

The governor’s withholdings included line-item vetoes and temporary restrictions. The line-item vetoes are permanent cuts unless the Legislature votes to override. The governor has the option of restoring restricted funds at some time during the fiscal year.

Gov. Nixon’s recent budget actions that affect Missouri employers include:

  • A veto of a $900,000 increase to the Missouri Works Job Development Fund, a program to assist qualified companies with the training of employees in new jobs and the retraining or upgrading of the skills of full-time employees in retained jobs. Gov. Nixon also restricted $11.8 million of the program’s core budget, leaving only $2.1 million in operational funds.
  • A veto of all funding, $54,372, for the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board (SBRFB). The board was established through legislation nearly a decade ago and is charged with investigating burdensome state regulations and excessive enforcement.
  • A veto of all funding, $700,000, for the Small Business & Technology Development Centers (SBTDC). SBTDCs provide a vast array of technical help to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. MO SBTDC consisted of more than 100 business development specialists, instructors and staff located the statewide. In the last three years MO SBTDC staff have worked with 9,515 small businesses, providing 2,119 training courses serving 38,786 participants. A total of 6,483 jobs were created.
  • A restriction of $18.5 million for the Missouri Technology Company, leaving only $350,000 in operational funds. The Missouri Technology Company is a public-private partnership created by the Missouri General Assembly to promote entrepreneurship and foster the growth of new and emerging high-tech companies.
  • A restriction of all funding, $400,000, for a workforce development initiative called Certified Work Ready Communities.
  • A restriction of $4.3 million — half of the increase to Missouri’s tourism marketing approved by the Legislature.
  • Restrictions to education funding increases passed by the Legislature, including $100.2 million slated for public schools through the foundation formula, $15 million for public school transportation, $43.4 million for aid to colleges and universities and $18 million for scholarship programs.
  • Veto that will result in the closure of seven satellite tax assistance offices (Cape Girardeau, Jefferson City, Kansas City, St. Joseph, St. Louis, Springfield, and Joplin.)
  • Veto that will result in the closure of six Department of Natural Resources satellite offices (Adair, Cape Girardeau, Howell, Madison, Newton, and Nodaway.)

For more information on budget issues, 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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