Missouri House passes cap on future state spending

Thursday, January 19, 2012 | 9:01 p.m. CST; updated 9:18 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY  — The Missouri House approved legislation Thursday that would add a constitutional amendment putting a cap on future state spending. 

If the measure is approved by the voters later this year, there would be a cap of annual spending increases at 1.5 percent of the collected revenue from the previous year. This would be in addition to adjustments based on inflation and the population, which one analyst estimates could be as much as 7 percent.

Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsored the constitutional amendment, which was the first bill passed by the House this legislative session.

At the House Budget Committee hearing last week former committee chair Rep. Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, traveled back to the Capitol to support the bill. He explained why the bill would help with the booms and busts becoming common in the state budget. 

"When the state of Missouri has good years from a revenue standpoint that there is a limitation put in place so that the General Assembly simply cannot spend every dime knowing full well if nothing else that is simply not sustainable," Icet said.

Republicans unanimously supported the measure with the help of one Democrat, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. Kelly is the longest tenured member of the House and supported the bill's passage as a member of the committee.

"I don't think there is any question that we'll see growth," Kelly said. "It will be slower, but much more consistent."

Opponents of the bill spoke out saying the caps were unnecessary and could potentially hurt revenue growth in the long term.

Those opponents included Kelly's counterpart, Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia. 

"This will handcuff higher education for the future," Still said.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, voiced his opinion using social media.

"It gets old hearing false arguments from opponents of a bill because it's easier than actually reading the bill or a better sound bite," Silvey tweeted during debate over the bill.

"Let's not constantly amend the Constitution to try to solve future problems, but instead elect good people to make good decisions about the future, when the future gets here, " Rep. Jeanette Oxford, D-St. Louis, said.

The bill passed by a vote of 105 to 54, and the issue now moves to the Senate. As of the bill's passage through the House, no senator has been identified as the Senate handler.

If the Senate passes the bill, Missouri voters would see the issue on the 2012 ballot.

Sherman Fabes is a reporter for Missouri Digital News.

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