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UPDATE: GOP House leaders urge governor to avoid vetoes

Friday, June 19, 2009 | 10:31 a.m. CDT; updated 6:24 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 12, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Republican House leaders are urging Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon not to use a proposed bond issue as justification for vetoing construction projects funded with federal stimulus money.

Nixon's administration already has said he will make line-item vetoes to a budget bill that would spend $381 million of stimulus funds over the next two years, largely on capital improvement projects.

Earlier this week, Nixon also indicated his support for a potential ballot measure seeking to issue bonds to finance state construction projects.

During the legislative session that concluded in May, Nixon had remained generally silent on a proposed $700 million bond issue for college construction projects that passed the House and was expanded in the Senate before ultimately dying.

"It is my sincere hope that Governor Nixon is not using the House bond initiative as a publicity stunt to detract Missourians from vetoes he will make in House Bill 22 that would cut projects and job growth in our state," House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said in a statement Friday.

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, said in the same statement that he would "strenuously object to vetoes" of projects in the budget bill.

"These projects would be funded from federal stimulus funds that came to this state for the exact purpose of putting people to work immediately," Icet said.

The money comes from the "budget stabilization" portion of the stimulus package. States have wide discretion in using that money, unlike other parts of the stimulus act that are earmarked for particular purposes such as roads, energy efficiency programs or unemployment benefits.

Nixon has said he wants to set aside enough stimulus money to ensure Missouri can balance its budget in the 2010 fiscal year and beyond. He has declined to say which specific projects he is considering vetoing.

Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti said Friday that line-item vetoes will be necessary from both the proposed $23 billion operating budget for the fiscal year, starting July 1, and the separate budget bill containing the stimulus-funded projects.

"The governor believes in fiscal responsibility and that we ought to keep very close tabs on the money that's being spent here, so we don't end up like other states that are in financial chaos," Cardetti said.

The stimulus spending bill includes 14 college construction projects that already have been delayed because their original funding source — the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority — has run into financial difficulties.

The most prominent of those is a $31.2 million replacement of the cancer hospital at MU.

State Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, has run automated phone calls to his mid-Missouri constituents, urging them to lobby Nixon not to veto the use of stimulus funds for the hospital.

Schaefer also has written Nixon suggesting the hospital could be spared if Nixon would instead use his line-item veto to reduce stimulus funds going toward a new $111.7 million communications system for emergency responders and a new $50 million incentive pool for high-tech battery makers to expand in Missouri.


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