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AIM supports check and balance on governor’s withholding authority

Associated Industries of Missouri president Ray McCarty tells the Missouri House’s General Laws Committee that a governor’s power to withhold money from the state budget “should only be used when it is clear revenues are insufficient to support appropriations.”

HJR 72, sponsored by State Representative Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) would allow the General Assembly to reconsider spending withholding actions by a governor, but specifically provides that a governor shall not reduce appropriations for principal and interest payments on the public debt.

In recent years, Missouri governors have increasingly withheld budget appropriations for a variety of state reasons. Many of the decisions to withhold funding at the very least short circuit the General Assembly’s ability to appropriate money through the budget process. At the worst, the withholdings smack strongly of politics.

Governors and their budget directors have been able to use the state constitution’s vague language on the governor’s discretion to control state spending as an excuse to hold back funds from one program or department as they see fit.

“AIM believes the current system allowing a governor broad latitude in withholding appropriated expenditures lends the process to allegations of withholding for political purposes,” McCarty told a committee hearing this week. “We believe the authority granted to a governor to withhold appropriations is to be used strictly for financial reasons to ensure the Missouri budget is balanced.”

The committee heard the bill on Tuesday February 4, and passed the resolution on the same day. It now heads for the House Rules Committee before it can go to the House floor for debate.

Because the legislation is a joint resolution, if passed by the legislature, it would be put to a public vote this coming November.

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