State lawmakers seek spending limit
MDN Menu
MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

State lawmakers seek spending limit

Date: January 11, 2012
By: Jordan Shapiro
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HJR43

JEFFERSON CITY - Future state spending would be capped  under a measure passed by the House Budget Committee Wednesday.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsored the constitutional amendment, which if approved by Missouri voters would freezing spending levels on Missouri's budget for general revenue funds. Burlison's amendment caps future spending to 2008 budget levels when state revenue was $8 billion with future increases allowed based only on inflation and population growth.

Former House Budget Chair Rep. Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, returned to Jefferson City to support the bill arguing it will help prevent the uncertainty in the state budget.

"When the state of Missouri has good years from a revenue standpoint that there is a limitation put in place so that the General Assembly simply cannot spend every dime knowing full well if nothing else that is simply not sustainable," Icet said.  

Under the amendment, any additional revenue collected beyond the $8 billion mark would first be diverted to pay off public debt owed by the state and then into emergency cash reserve funds. Burlison said his bill would provide stability to the state during uncertain economic times.

"It tries to make it a more stable environment and making sure that we reduce the boom and bust years that we experience," Burlison said.

Democrats and some Republicans expressed concerns about the measure, arguing it makes spending on education and healthcare more difficult.

"Vote against this for the sake of our kids, education and the elderly," Rep. Jamillah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City, said.

Only one Democrat, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, supported the bill after sponsoring the change to set the revenue levels to 2008 when they were higher instead of 2010, as originally planned by Burlison.

"It makes a lot of sense to me," Kelly said after noting he sponsored a previous effort to cap spending in the past.

The Foundation Formula, the mechanism to fund local districts, has been underfunded since 2009 and is facing a potential $500 shortfall this year. Joint Education Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Thomson, R-Maryville, supported the spending cap, but expressed concerns about future education funding.

"I realize this is not specific to any one entity, but on the other hand, are we going to be able to recover from a situation we have been struggling with now for going on four years?," Thomson said.

Burlison's amendment would only go into effect when the state reaches the $8 billion revenue mark set in 2008. The spending cap also would expire unless reauthorized by the General Assembly after five years.

The amendment will now go to the House floor. If passed by both House and Senate, would be placed on the ballot for voters to approve in 2012.

Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.