House could pass budget without Nixon's recommended cuts

Monday, March 15, 2010 | 8:56 p.m. CDT; updated 11:24 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 15, 2010
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The House Budget Committee began discussion Monday about the budget proposals from Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, for the 2011 fiscal year.

JEFFERSON CITY — The House Budget Committee chairman said he will leave it to the Senate and Gov. Jay Nixon to make the roughly $500 million in cuts to next year's budget that were proposed by Nixon last week.

Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, said the House joined the Senate on Monday in agreeing to Nixon's request for revised budget numbers for next year.

While State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said it would be feasible to develop a new projection within a few days, Icet said the numbers won't come in time for his committee to incorporate them.

Luebbering and Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti said the governor doesn't plan to issue a revised budget proposal to the legislature including these cuts.

Icet has said numerous times that he would expect Nixon to recommend cuts if a new revenue estimate for next year is released. He suggested that the General Assembly could pass a bill without these cuts and force the governor to make the cuts through withholdings.

Sen. Tim Green, D-Florissant, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he thinks this would be contrary to the duties of the General Assembly.

"If you want to pass an inflated budget and allow the governor to make the cuts to balance the budget, then what is the need for the legislature?" he said.

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said it's important that Nixon make his budget priorities clear.

"I think in reality he's expecting the Senate to balance the budget for him, so he doesn't have to make those decisions," said Schaefer, the Senate Appropriations Committee vice chairman.

Icet said the committee plans to finalize its budget recommendations by the end of this week, have the budget brought to the House floor next week and then finalized and sent to the Senate the following week.

Schaefer said it's reasonable for the House to pass a budget including funds that may need to be cut later because of the timing.

"Usually, by this point the House is pretty much finished," Schaefer said. "It is very, very late in the process for them to be changing that."

Icet's bills, which restore full funding to the K-12 Education Foundation Formula, include $300 million in federal stabilization funds that have not yet been approved by Congress. He and other Republican leaders previously criticized Nixon for including the funds in his budget, which was released in January, but Icet said the U.S. Senate's passage last week of an unemployment assistance bill which includes the $300 million has convinced him the state is likely to receive the money.

Luebbering has said previously that Nixon is hoping to save the extended stabilization money for 2012, by using it to replace state money in next year's budget and putting aside the $300 million in state money for the following year, when nearly $1 billion in federal stabilization funds will be spent.

Green said he approves of this idea.

"I think it's responsible not to just think about the end of the day, but think about the end of the day two or three years from now," he said.

Schaefer said he would still prefer not to include the federal funds in next year's budget.

"If it does pass, it's likely not going to pass before we pass the budget," he said.

The Missouri General Assembly is required to pass its budget for next year by May 7, one week before the end of session.

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