Lawmakers send governor spending bill with shortfall

Thursday, April 18, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri lawmakers on Wednesday sent the governor a supplemental spending plan that could leave the state's books $17 million out of balance this year.

The $172 million in the bill would help cover some unexpected costs of state government for the 2002 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

But if state revenue does not improve, Gov. Bob Holden may be forced to make additional cuts to meet the constitutional requirement of balancing the budget. The governor already has withheld about $600 million from this year's roughly $19 billion budget.

Holden budget director Brian Long said his office would closely monitor revenue over the next month -- as state income taxes come in -- to determine what action should be taken.

"If revenue slides below forecasts, this kind of shortfall ... could become much, much worse," Long said. "If revenue come in above forecast, it may not be a problem at all."

The Senate voted 28-4 in favor of the supplemental spending bill, which had been approved earlier by the House.

Revenue in the bill includes $13 million being deducted from 240 state funds as charges for the costs of managing them.

$17 million less

But that is $17 million less than Holden had proposed to garner through such transfers in the current fiscal year.

Sen. John Russell, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said a tight budget means lawmakers had few options to find funding.

"I wish there was some other way to do it, but frankly, there is no other way to do it," said Russell, R-Lebanon.

Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Seneca, sought to send the bill back to House-Senate negotiators because he did not like the idea of charging fees on the funds.

Singleton's motion was rejected on a voice vote.

Each year, lawmakers consider a supplemental appropriation bill to cover unexpected expenses or shortfalls in the budget. The measure on its way to Holden includes more than $23 million to address security and terrorism issues.

The supplemental spending plan depends on transferring $88.5 million in tobacco settlement revenue 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 $25 million was to have gone for a new state health lab. Holden has said both items will be funded eventually.

Supplemental spending bill is HB1115 (Green).

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