JEFFERSON CITY — After coping through several lean years, Missouri's Republican legislative leaders now are at odds over whether to save or spend an apparent excess of money.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer says he expects Missouri will end its fiscal year June 30 with about $400 million more than had been projected. He wants to spend more than $200 million of that to replace an aging state mental hospital in Fulton.
But House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, prefers to save the money as cushion for next year's budget while waiting to see if the economy continues to improve.
The difference of opinion among Missouri's top legislative budget writers will have to be resolved soon. Lawmakers face a constitutional deadline of May 10 to send a budget to Gov. Jay Nixon for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Schaefer, R-Columbia, has been pressing House members to revise the revenue projections agreed in December — upon which the budget is based — because tax revenues have been better than expected. But Stream and other House leaders have refused to do so.
"Being momentarily ahead of the consensus revenue estimate is not a good enough excuse to me to engage in a new large amount of additional spending," House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, told reporters Monday night. "I just don't see that that's fiscally prudent, fiscally conservative or anything the House has done in the past."
Schaefer contends House members are acting as if the excess revenues do not even exist.
"It's some kind of alternate reality in this building where generally accepted accounting principles don't seem to apply," Schaefer said.
Missourians should get an update soon about state revenues. Tuesday was the final day of April, and monthly revenue figures typically are released a few days after the close of the month.
Linda Luebbering, the budget director for Democratic Gov. Nixon, has said previously that revenues are running ahead of projections, but that may diminish in coming months.