ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A letter sent Friday from Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich to Governor Jay Nixon had a stern message regarding Nixon’s recent withholding of over $170 million from the state budget.
“The state auditor has determined that, when the governor decided to withhold funds from these programs, there was no basis in the Missouri Constitution, law or accounting for doing so,” Schweich’s office said in a news release.
The programs in question include funding for community colleges, children’s services, health care for senior citizens and more. Nixon has opted – without approval from the Missouri legislature – to withhold those funds and ultimately redirect them towards disaster relief efforts in Joplin and elsewhere.
During an annual audit of the governor’s finances, Schweich says his office was unable to uncover any semblance of sound accounting or transparency.
“We were not provided a single piece of paper explaining why the governor withheld $170 million from the current budget,” Schweich told KMOX News. “It’s really unprecedented, in my experience, that there would be absolutely no data to support the $170 million dollars.”
Along with the accounting question comes a legal one: where does the governor draw the authority needed to arbitrarily direct funds from a legislatively-approved budget?
Schweich says the constitutional authority for Nixon’s actions simply doesn’t exist.
“Under the Missouri Constitution, the governor can only circumvent the legislature and withhold appropriated money if the actual receipts that are coming in are below projection,” Schweich explained, adding that the action seems to “fly directly in the face of the Missouri Constitution.”
Calling state assistance in disaster areas “crucial,” Schweich said he understands the need for the funding at this particular time but added that it must be done “in a manner that comports with sound accounting and legal principles.”
According to the Associated Press, Nixon spokesman Scott Holste says Schweich’s letter is erroneous and that Nixon will ensure local communities are granted disaster relief aid while also maintaining a balanced budget.
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