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16 June 2011

Kelley: Governor's Budget Withholdings

An identical missive was sent by TJ Berry at 4:08p, 16 June 2011.

This week Governor Nixon announced his vetoes and withholds in the state budget. The total in all areas amounted to about $172 million. Unlike in Washington D.C. with the President, Missouri’s governor has line-item veto authority. This means the governor can veto individual spending items without killing the entire bill in which they are contained. In Washington it has not been unusual for members of Congress to attach funding for pet projects which would never pass on their own to spending bills that are a priority. When the bill reaches the President’s desk, he has no choice but to approve all spending projects or none at all, including the necessary items. While Missouri’s governor can veto spending items, he cannot add additional spending to the budget bills.

When reviewing the budget, the governor can either veto a spending item or withhold the funds. If he vetoes the appropriation, the money is simply not spent and is no longer part of the budget. If he chooses to withhold the money, the option is available to release the money at a later date. This option is used when money is not readily available, but could be later in the fiscal year. This year there was only one line-item veto, all the other reductions were withholds.

The largest withhold is an appropriation for almost $100 million in college and university construction projects funded through MOHELA dollars. Four year higher education institutions also saw a reduction of in excess of $14 million from what the legislature appropriated. The governor had recommended a 7% decrease for most state supported colleges and universities. During the budget process, the legislature added money to bring the reduction under 5%. Not only did Governor Nixon withhold the added money, but in the case of two universities he withheld additional dollars to bring their reduction closer to 8%. In his accompanying message he referenced that these two institutions had increased tuition costs by over 5% and should thus have additional money available.

While Governor Nixon did not withhold any money from his own office budget, he did cut money from the House, Senate, and State Auditor’s office. This was possibly a partisan move as the State Auditor is a republican and the House and Senate have republican majorities. No funds were withheld from democrat statewide officeholders.

While vetoes are subject to a legislative over ride attempt, withholds are not. The reductions will stand unless released by the governor at a later date.

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