Some Missouri lawmakers say governor should be held constitution - KOAM TV 7

Some Missouri lawmakers say governor should be held constitutionally accountable for withholdings

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon this week released $143.6 million in education funding after legislators overrode a number of his line item budget vetoes, but some lawmakers say he should not have been permitted to withhold the funding in the first place.

A constitutional amendment on the state's November ballot will address that very issue.

Under Missouri law, the governor has the constitutional responsibility to balance the budget and can withhold funding during times of a budget shortfall.

Lawmakers say Amendment 10 would prevent the governor from withholding funds in times of surplus.

"He'll have to tell the general assembly the amount he is withholding, and we have the authority at that point to look at it and if he's withholding money in times of surplus, then we can actually veto his withhold, so that money has to be released," said state representative Charlie Davis, District 128.

Supporters of the  measure say the governor's release of education funding after this week's override session is an example why the governor should be held constitutionally accountable for his withholdings.

"Immediately after the veto session, the governor released hundreds of millions of dollars for education," Davis said.

Davis says this proves there was not a budget shortfall to justify the withholding.

"It was in the budget and we had a budget surplus, or at least we were not falling behind currently, so that money was actually used to hold the legislature hostage and if we had overrode those vetoes, he probably would have not released that money," he said.

Opponents of the measure argue the governor had to wait until after the session to release the funding.

"The governor holding onto money until after the veto session was just being prudent," said Charles Hugh Shields, Democratic candidate for Missouri House 161 Legislative District.  "He was just using his authority to do what he needed to do in order to make sure the budget was balanced and that he had enough money to work with."

Shields says Amendment 10 would alter the current checks and balance system and take a way power from the governor.

"The amendment would give power to the legislature to force fiscal measures on the governor that he thinks are not wise," Shields said.

Again, the measure will be on the November ballot.

If passed, Amendment 10 would require the current and future Missouri governors to get approval from the general assembly before withholding funding from anything in the budget.
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