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Politics, Elections and Government

Voter Guide To Missouri Amendment 10 On Gubernatorial Power

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Bernard Pollack
/
Flickr--CC

A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot could limit gubernatorial power over the state's budget. 

Missouri Constitutional Amendment 10 seeks to restrict the governor's power to withhold revenue based on projected budget shortfalls. It has quickly become one of the most politicized amendments on the ballot.

Ballot language:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to require the governor to pay the public debt, to prohibit the governor from relying on revenue from legislation not yet passed when proposing a budget, and to provide a legislative check on the governor’s decisions to restrict funding for education and other state services? State governmental entities expect no direct costs or savings. Local governmental entities expect an unknown fiscal impact.

What it means:

If passed, Amendment 10 would make it impossible for the governor to withhold money from the legislature's appropriations based on projected budget imbalances. In the event of a withholding, the governor would have to proclaim it to the legislature with sound evidence that there is an actual revenue shortfall. 

The governor would also be barred from withholding any funds paying, "principal and interest on the public debt."

Pros:

Proponents of Amendment 10 are predominantly Republican lawmakers. The amendment stems from fights between the legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon over budget withholdings that he has made every year that he has been in office. 

Rep. Todd Richardson a Republican from Poplar Bluff sponsored the amendment. In his opinion, Jay Nixon has not only slowed down funding processes, but he claims Nixon overstepped his gubernatorial authority by withholding money. 

"This is about checks and balances," Richardson said to the Kansas City Star. "We've seen a pattern of this governor abusing his constitutional authority, and we're trying to create some legislative oversight."

Cons:

The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch's editorial boards both recommend that voters vote "no" on Amendment 10. The Post-Dispatch says that governors of both parties have been withholding revenue for decades, and shouldn't be restricted from continuing to do so.

"Amendment 10 would change the process from beginning to end, shifting nearly all of the budget responsibility to the Legislature," the Post-Dispatch wrote. "It's a naked power grab."

Gov. Nixon himself has come out against the amendment, saying that if it passes, Missouri's AAA credit rating could be lowered. He also said that he withholds money because the legislature's budgets are wildly unbalanced. 

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