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Missouri House reverses Nixon spending cuts

Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications

The Missouri House has voted to restore $925,000 to the current year's state budget.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, withheld more than $46.1 million from the fiscal year 2016 state budget last fall after a court ruling allowed the tobacco industry to skip out on a $50 million settlement payment.

But the GOP-controlled House voted Wednesday to restore $350,000 for Medicaid patients with brain injuries, which Nixon zeroed out in October. The House also restored $575,000 to the Missouri Scholar and Fine Arts academies, boosting its allocation to $750,000.

The MFAA provides programs for gifted students, and are held each summer at the University of Missouri - Columbia and at Missouri State University in Springfield.

In 2014, voters gave the General Assembly the authority to override the governor’s temporary reductions to the current state budget. Wednesday was the first time lawmakers used that authority.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said it's no longer necessary to withhold the funds because revenue collections are up.

"I don't think there's any question that we are going to collect more money than the number we appropriated last year by a significant amount," Richardson said during debate on the overrides. "My understanding is we could have absolutely zero growth the rest of the year, just be flat, and we'd still exceed our total dollar amount."

But Democrat John Rizzo of Kansas City urged his colleagues to keep the reductions in place, saying that reversing them would start the state down a slippery slope. 

"The governor has a team of people that do this every single day; they look at numbers every single day," Rizzo said.  "Yes, there are dollars out there that I wish would go out sooner rather than later, (but) I understand how difficult that job is."

Credit Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications
Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, argues against reversing Nixon's temporary spending cuts.

Nixon also blasted the override votes in a written statement:

"I'm surprised and disappointed that the House, during tax season, is attempting to increase government spending, rather than pay the tax refunds that are owed to hardworking Missourians. As Governor, I will continue to fulfill my obligation to keep the budget in balance, protect our AAA credit rating, and pay Missourians the tax refunds they are owed."

The Missoui Senate will now decide whether to follow suit.

Follow Marshall Griffin  on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.