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Mo. House approves constitutional spending limit

The chambers of the Missouri House of Representatives.
(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)
The chambers of the Missouri House of Representatives.

One day after giving it first-round approval, the Missouri House has passed a proposed constitutional amendment to place spending caps on the state budget.

During final debates,State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford(D, St. Louis) argued that limiting spending to the yearly inflation rate and population growth could make it very hard for lawmakers to address critical needs in the future.

“When we try through our constitution, through constantly amending our constitution, to figure out how to solve future problems that we can’t see right now, we wind up creating these unintended consequences that are truly, truly bad for our state," Oxford said.

Eric Burlison (R, Springfield), the bill’s sponsor, maintains that Missouri’s taxpayers have a right to see their dollars used wisely, and that the measure would insure that.

“Most of the people, when they hear this bill, they say it makes common sense," Burlison said during his closing statement.  "This is the way that most people handle their budgets, especially people who have careers that have fluctuating revenue, fluctuating income, maybe they earn commissions (on) sales…they put instruments like this on their personal finances so that they don’t end up in mistakes themselves.”

The resolution would cap annual spending increases at 1.5 percent of the revenue collected in the previous year plus the rates of inflation and population change. Additional money would be used for debt and two state reserve funds. Eventually it would permit an income tax cut.

It passed 105-54 on a mostly partisan vote.  Only two Democrats, Chris Kellyof Columbia and Michael Brownof Kansas City, voted "yes."

The resolution now goes to the Missouri Senate.  If it passes out of the General Assembly, it would go before voters in November. 

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