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Amendment 10 a necessary check on governors’ withholding power

The just-completed veto session of the Missouri legislature may have provided the best argument yet for the passage of Amendment 10 on the upcoming November ballot.

The ballot issue provides the Missouri legislature a check on a governor’s power to withhold funds from state budget items in times of budget stability. Under the proposal, the legislature would be able to override a governor’s budget withholdings with a two thirds vote in both the state House and Senate.

The legislature currently holds override powers on the governor’s line item vetoes of budget items, but currently, the governor can simply withhold money from those budgeted items as he or she sees fit.

The result has increasingly become a tool for governors to withhold money to make political points, or to threaten the legislature not to pass certain pieces of legislation. Such was the case in 2013 when Governor Nixon withheld money from elementary and secondary education and higher education in a campaign to get the legislature to sustain his veto of the broad-based tax cutting House Bill 253. This past summer, the governor was able to use budget withholdings again as part of his campaign against several bills that clarified many exemptions that should be allowed to taxpayers by the Missouri Department of Revenue.

During the just-completed veto session, lawmakers were able to override several of the governor’s line items vetoes as a show of support for items they felt must be funded that legislators themselves included in the state budget. But their overrides are largely symbolic unless the governor releases the state revenues to fund those programs.

“The one gap in an area where the governor has had unchecked power, where nobody has had the ability to put any check on that, is through the governor’s power to withhold,” ballot issue sponsor Rep. Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) told the Missourinet following the veto session.

That is precisely what Amendment 10 on the November ballot will do. It will allow the legislature a check on a gubernatorial power that has spiraled out of control in the last two decades.

Associated Industries of Missouri supports the passage of the ballot issue.

“AIM believes the current system allowing a governor broad latitude in withholding appropriated expenditures lends the process to allegations of withholding for political purposes,” said AIM president Ray McCarty. “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.”

So far, the campaign surrounding the issue has been low key. That may be changing with the release of a television commercial by Missouri Club for Growth in support of Amendment 10. You can view the commercial here.

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