This week the halls of the Capitol were once again full of lawmakers returning to Jefferson City for the Legislature’s annual veto session on Sept. 16. Veto session, which is required by the state constitution, is a meeting of the general Assembly to determine if we wish to override any vetoes the Governor issued on legislation passed during the year’s legislative session.
This year, the Governor vetoed 12 Senate bills, 11 House bills and multiple line items in many of the budget bills. While one motion was made in the House, none of these vetoes were successfully overridden. Veto overrides are a rare occurrence, with none taking place since 2003, when legislators voted to overturn three of the Governor’s vetoes. Those overrides allowed Missourians to carry concealed weapons, protecting our Second Amendment right to bear arms, and enacted pro-life provisions to protect the unborn.
This year, lower-than-anticipated state revenues led the Governor to formally veto $105 million in spending from the fiscal year 2010 budget, which took effect July. The Governor also restricted an additional $325 million in spending until revenue improves, and more recently, restricted another $60 million as it became clear that deeper cuts would be needed to ensure Missouri continues to meet its obligations. While we all understand the need for fiscal restraint, there were several vetoes and withholds that clearly hurt programs, services and tools without dramatically improving the state’s financial standing.
One example is the Governor’s recent cuts to tourism funding. Many of us were shocked when the Governor withheld $7 million from the state’s Tourism Commission’s $24 million budget. These funds are invested wisely by the Tourism Commission to advertise and promote all parts of Missouri - and it’s effective. Every dollar spent on tourism advertising creates a $48 return for Missouri’s economy. One of the ways government can encourage job growth is by promoting a good business environment. When we invest funds to advertise all the great reasons to visit our state, people respond. In fact, one recent study found that nearly half of the people that visit Branson come from over 300 miles away. Cutting over 30% from tourism funding directly and negatively affects the families, small businesses, and regional employers that depend on the Tourism Commission to market our state, and does not significantly improve the state’s financial standing.
A needed law enforcement tool affected by the governor’s budget cuts is the pseudoephedrine sales tracking system implemented at pharmacies across the state. Last year, the Legislature passed a bill (SB 724) that requires pharmacies in Missouri to electronically track the sale of pseudoephedrine products (a key ingredient in methamphetamine), an upgrade from the previously required paper log. Current laws limit the amount of pseudoephedrine individuals can purchase on a daily and monthly basis, and require that they submit identification when buying a product that contains pseudoephedrine. However, these laws can be difficult to enforce without some type of electronic database to cross-reference purchase logs at multiple stores.
Senate Bill 724 has since been enacted into law, but the updated system has yet to be funded. Lawmakers originally budgeted almost $900,000 for the system in the FY 2010 spending plan, but the Governor vetoed $275,000 of that allowance, leaving less than $612,000 for the upgrade. Though the system could likely be implemented with the remaining funds, the Missouri Health Department is hesitant to pursue the transition with such an uncertain funding future. Some officials have estimated an initial cost of $800,000 with an additional $500,000 each year for up-keep.
We know that meth continues to be a serious problem in our state, and not just for addicts and producers. Meth has been linked to everything from random violent attacks to burglary. This year, lawmakers recognized the importance of equipping law enforcement with the necessary tools to stop the production and sale of this devastating drug. Missouri law enforcement already does a great job busting meth labs and distribution networks, but as we step up enforcement, criminals will continue to develop new strategies for avoiding the law. We must remain committed to fighting the proliferation of meth — including eventually implementing an electronic pseudoephedrine tracking system. $275,000 will not balance the budget, but without this critical funding Missouri is a more dangerous place to live.
The Legislature takes its responsibility to create a yearly budget very seriously. Determining the amount of funding each state department should receive is an extremely intricate task that sometimes borders on the impossible—especially in a budget year where revenues are so uncertain. As we begin to look forward to next year, it is apparent that difficult decisions will need to be made. I just hope in the future Governor Nixon can finds ways to balance the budget by trimming unnecessary growth in entitlement spending, and eliminating inefficient government programs and bureaucracy. harmh
Friday, September 18, 2009
Goodman: Governor's tourism cuts harmful to state
In his weekly capital report, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, whose district includes Branson, criticizes Gov. Jay Nixon's slashing of the state's tourism budget: