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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

Missouri Legislature Could Address Nixon's Withholding Power Next Session

This summer, Gov. Nixon made more than two dozen stops to expresses his opposition to HB 253, which contributed to his

Gov. Jay Nixon says his office will immediately release $215.2 million in funding for education, mental health and other priorities. But as KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, just because some of the funding is being returned doesn’t mean lawmakers are satisfied.

Thursday’s announcement comes following Wednesday’s vote to sustain his veto of House Bill 253, which the Governor had said would mean big losses for the state budget. He therefore, in June, restricted $400 million from the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

“The fiscal uncertainties [were] the reason for that, and we will be moving very expeditiously to get those dollars out [to] where they can make a difference,” Nixon said.

The Governor is still withholding 185 million dollars earmarked for construction and repairs to state buildings. 

On Wednesday, Springfield Senator Bob Dixon said that while the constitution authorizes the Governor to hold back funds if the revenue coming in to the state doesn’t match the expected estimates, his decision to restrict $400 million “was not based on the merits of each line item or supported by an unexpected drop in revenue.”

Representative Tom Flanigan of Jasper County is vice chair of the House Budget Committee.  He says the governor should only withhold money from the state budget if there’s a financial emergency:

“Not only has he abused the withhold system for what it was never intended to be, (but) he’s also taken the budget and he’s used it to just beat people on the head with it…you know, to bully them.”

Meanwhile, State Rep. Todd Richardson on Thursday said he’ll file a constitutional amendment to prevent the chief executive’s office from engaging in such practices in the future. If passed by the legislature, Missouri voters will then have the opportunity to clearly define the governor’s authority in regard to his ability to withhold funding appropriated by the General Assembly.

Richardson believes the Missouri Constitution is clear in limiting the governor’s withholding power to times of emergency or funding shortages, but says Nixon has “continued to challenge that limitation to the point we now lack clarity on this important issue.”

Marshall Griffin contributed to this report.