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29 August 2011

Allen: Budget Transparency Committee, Upcoming Veterans Rally

Budget Transparency Committee

The House Interim Committee on Budget Transparency held its first hearing on Wednesday the 24th. The Committee primarily looked into budget withholdings by the Governor.

The Governor’s Budget Director, Linda Luebbering, was questioned about the Governor’s unilateral withholding of over $170 million to be reallocated to disaster relief. Although the Governor can withhold money when there is not enough money to fund the budget, reallocating funds appropriated by the legislature appears unconstitutional. State Auditor Tom Schweich has recently filed a lawsuit against the Governor over the constitutionality of these withholds. The Governor’s office has failed to provide justification that these withholds are necessary, has failed to provide revenue forecasts or a formula to account for how they arrived at $170 million, and has failed to provide a spending plan for the $170 million.

These cuts have come most heavily from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Higher Education, Medicaid, and the Department of Corrections. These cuts include over $14.8 million from 4-year Colleges and Universities, over $13 million from Medicaid, about $2 million from Community Colleges, over $2 million from Parents as Teachers, $2 million from Bright Flight Scholarships, and $2 million from the Department of Corrections.

While withholds and reallocation of government monies are often necessary, it must be justified and done in a transparent manner with legislative input and oversight.

Upcoming Veterans Rally at the Capitol

The Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations (MAVO) will be holding a rally at the Capitol on September 14th at 10:00am in the 1st Floor Rotunda to raise awareness for veterans’ issues and show support for keeping Veterans Homes open. Currently, seven Veterans Homes serving a total of over 1,300 veterans face closure if they do not get adequate funding. Since 2010, the Missouri Veterans Commission lost $42 million in general revenue support for the Homes Program.

In our Budget Transparency Committee, it was agreed that we are committed to funding these seven homes. I believe we need to develop a permanent solution to sustain the Veterans Capital Fund. In my opinion, funding the needs of our veterans is an appropriate priority for our state funds. These veterans served us when we needed them and now some of them need our assistance. I encourage all veterans who can spare some time to attend the rally. I would also be happy to meet with any veterans from the 92nd District to discuss issues you may have.

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