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Senate passes legislation to restrict governor’s budget power

One week after House members voted to let Missouri voters decide if the legislature should be able to limit a governor’s power over certain budget matters, the Missouri Senate has done the same.

SJR 45, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), would prevent governors from freezing budgeted money for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The resolution was third read and passed in the Senate Thursday (2/27) by a margin of 28-2. The proposed constitutional amendment now moves to the House of Representatives. If passed there, the measure would appear on the statewide ballot this coming November.

Associated Industries of Missouri was the only statewide business organization to speak in favor of the resolution at a Senate hearing late last month.

The constitution allows governors to control the rate of state spending and to withhold funds if revenues aren’t performing at projected levels. But the state constitution’s language on how much control a governor has over which funds in the budget appears vague at best.

Silvey told Senators Monday that the change would mirror another constitutional provision that prevents the governor from using a line-item veto for public schools or payment of public debt.

“The practice has become a tactic used by governors to exert pressure on state legislators during debates on other issues,” said AIM president Ray McCarty. “It’s time to stop governors from using the budget as a weapon in political battles.”

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