Nixon administration accused of questionable accounting
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Nixon administration accused of questionable accounting

Date: February 21, 2012
By: Jordan Shapiro
State Capitol Bureau
Links: The budget proposals

JEFFERSON CITY - Both Republicans and Democrats attacked Gov. Jay Nixon's administration on how they manage the state's $23 billion operating budget during a House Budget Committee hearing Tuesday.

House Budget Chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, accused the governor of running the state like Enron, referring to the failed energy company.

"It is not actual money, it's fake money," Silvey said while discussing the 2012 budget restrictions imposed by Nixon.

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, added to the criticism and accused Nixon's office of using "fuzzy math," to put the budget together.  

At issue is $111 million withheld from various programs in the budget by Nixon at the start of the 2012 fiscal year even though funds were appropriated by the General Assembly. The governor can withhold money during the fiscal year if state revenues fall below their expected levels.

Silvey and others on the committee asked State Budget Director Linda Luebbering why more withholds have not been released given the current revenue collection and the governor's request for an extra $1 million to the MOSIRA program. The MOSIRA program would have pooled money to be distributed to new science and technology companies in Missouri.

The MOSIRA law was struck down by the Cole County Circuit Court as unconstitutional on Tuesday. Before the ruling, Nixon had asked for the funds to start the program.

Montecillo asked Luebbering why the state could afford $1 million for MOSIRA, but not for certain programs the legislature authorized, but the governor withheld. Silvey said there needs to be a way to hold the administration accountable and restricting funds after they passed the General Assembly.

"Is it unfair to ask for a threshold on when money can be released?" Silvey asked.  

Luebbering said there were "too many moving parts" in the budget to establish a firm revenue amount on when withheld money could be released.

Funds currently being withheld include transportation for school districts, money to public universities and the Parents as Teachers program.

Republicans were not the only way to challenge Nixon's budget and his spending restrictions.

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, called the withholds, which were made before the fiscal year even began, a "comprehensive abuse."

Luebbering also faced questions from the committee on using funds from a tax amnesty program to balance the budget. The program is estimated to be worth $52 million, but has not yet been passed by the legislature. The General Assembly did not approve the program during both last year's regular and special session.

Kelly said the Nixon administration should take a more proactive approach and engage the legislature on this issue.   

State Auditor Republican Tom Schweich has filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of Nixon's withholds.

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