State Senate committee sends shortfall budget to chamber

Thursday, March 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A midyear spending bill endorsed early Wednesday by a Senate panel would still leave the state about $30 million short of balancing its budget this fiscal year.

Gov. Bob Holden had asked lawmakers to transfer about $30 million from various treasury accounts to fill budget gaps in other areas of government.

The House had approved deductions of $13.5 million from 240 state accounts by charging the funds for the cost of managing them.

But the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to cut out the money transfers.

Without the transfers and because the House plan was about $15 million below what was needed, lawmakers must scramble to fill the $30 million void either on the Senate floor or in budget negotiations. If they do not, Holden would have to withhold money from agencies.

Governor may act

"If the Legislature ultimately does not endorse the governor's proposal ... then another alternative will have to be found," said Brian Long, Holden's budget director. "The only tool at the governor's disposal is withholding."

Holden already has vetoed or withheld about $600 million in appropriations from the state's roughly $19 billion budget for the fiscal year ending June 30.

Each year, lawmakers consider a supplemental appropriation bill to cover unexpected expenses or shortfalls in the budget.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its $172 million supplemental spending bill by a 12-1 vote.

The House previously had approved a $160 million package.

The Senate's larger figure is because of newly expected federal money for homeland security.

Sen. John Russell, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said senators were uncomfortable with Holden's proposal to transfer money out of some accounts to balance others.

The Senate and House versions both include provisions that would transfer $88.5 million in tobacco settlement revenues to the state's general revenue account to help balance the budget.

About $50 million of the tobacco money had been intended for an endowment and another $25 million was to have gone for a new state health lab. Holden has said both things still will occur eventually.

Much of the state's tobacco settlement revenues are split among such things as health care, anti-smoking programs, life sciences research and early childhood programs.

Both the Senate and House bills include $2.2 million for the administrative start-up costs of a state prescription drug program for low-income senior citizens. The money was needed after lawmakers passed legislation last September creating the program.

The Senate committee version also includes more than $23 million -- expected soon from the federal government -- to deal with a variety of security and terrorism issues.

The Senate bill also includes $202,000 for hiring private security guards at the Capitol and other state government office buildings.

The Department of Corrections would receive more than $5.5 million for the costs of running prisons while more than $207,000 would go to a program that helps problem gamblers.

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Supplemental spending bill is HB1115 (Green).

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http://www.moga.state.mo.us

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