Missouri House approves spending limits measure

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 5:12 p.m. CDT; updated 7:24 p.m. CDT, Thursday, March 12, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — A constitutional amendment approved Thursday by the state House would restrict state government spending.

The measure would prohibit lawmakers from increasing spending by more than the annual rise in inflation plus population growth, but it wouldn't require cuts if a drop in consumer prices or population make that a negative figure.

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, who sponsored the measure, said he thinks the legislation would encourage prudent budgeting.

"This makes good sense for the taxpayers of this state. It makes good sense for the citizens of this state," the Wildwood Republican said.

But Democratic critics contend the spending restrictions would too tightly bind the decisions of future lawmakers. Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City, said during debate earlier this week that the measure exemplifies a wrongheaded lack of faith in government.

"I'm bored with this philosophy that government cannot work, so why even try?" Kander said..

The House passed the measure 82-78 on Thursday, sending it to the Senate. If approved by both chambers, the proposed constitutional amendment would appear on the ballot. The spending limits would automatically expire in five years unless lawmakers decide to extend them.

The measure would affect only general revenue, money over which lawmakers have the greatest discretion in deciding how to spend. House budget writers approved a $22.8 billion budget late Wednesday night that includes a variety of other funds, many of which can be spent only for a specific purpose.

The proposed Missouri amendment is similar to a Colorado spending cap. Critics there have blamed it for leading to problems with funding education and social services. Supporters of Missouri's version said they have made adjustments to avoid those problems.


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