Legislators OK spending bill

Thursday, April 11, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Negotiators from the House and Senate agreed Wednesday on a supplemental spending plan for the current budget year that could leave the state $17 million in the red.

With little debate, a conference committee approved the $170 million supplemental spending bill. It includes a House-recommended provision deducting $13 million from 240 state accounts by charging the funds for the cost of managing them.

The money would be used to help cover the costs of other state programs in the current budget year, which ends June 30.

But that total is $17 million less than the $30 million in transfers from various treasury accounts requested by Gov. Bob Holden. Both the House and Senate must approve the negotiated spending plan before it can go to Holden.

Holden's budget director, Brian Long, said lawmakers did a good job closing the revenue gap to $17 million. He said state revenue estimates expected in May would determine if cuts would be necessary.

"I don't anticipate any immediate action," Long said. "We're going to look at revenue. In the first couple of weeks in May we'll have a real feel for where we're going to finish the year."

Long said the governor's office has considered several scenarios for cuts if revenue doesn't make up for the $17 million shortfall.

"We always have contingency plans. That's part of good budget management, knowing how you can work through various scenarios to get in balance," Long said.

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

Approval of the conference committee's measure came a week after the House approved a budget about $53 million in the red for the 2003 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Holden already has vetoed or withheld about $600 million in appropriations from the state's roughly $19 billion budget for fiscal 2002.

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