The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 21, 2011

Susan Redden: State officials argue about disaster money

By Susan Redden

— Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is under fire from two different fronts, both relating to plans for a special legislative session in which the Joplin tornado and its economic impact will most certainly be a topic.

State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, released a letter Friday saying the governor has exceeded his authority by withholding more than $170 million from the budget to help in the response to natural disasters in the state, including the tornado that hit the Joplin area on May 22 and flooding elsewhere in the state.

The cuts trimmed funding for higher education and school busing, and Schweich said he does not believe the Missouri Constitution allows the governor to make those cuts. He also said he has discussed other avenues for disaster funding in his own meeting with Joplin officials.

A spokesman for Nixon disagreed with the auditor’s assertion, and said the governor will continue to ensure that the budget is balanced and that local communities get help with disaster recovery.

“Gov. Nixon will continue to ensure that Missouri will meet its obligations to help communities recover and rebuild in the wake of the many natural disasters this year, including the devastating tornado that hit Joplin,” said Nixon spokesman Scott Holste. “The governor will continue to fulfill his responsibility to balance the state budget, fund necessary services and help our communities recover from these disasters.”

Disaster spending is among the issues that will be on the agenda for a special legislative session being discussed by Nixon and legislative leaders.

Spurring job growth in the state is another goal of the session.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate and House sent a letter to the Democratic governor last week, calling on him to set a firm date for calling the Legislature into session.

The letter, from Robert Mayer, Senate president, and Steven Tilley, speaker of the House, said the Legislature in the special session “has the hard task to pass, in a limited time, the most sweeping jobs and fiscal accountability legislation ever attempted.”

The letter said lawmakers are committed to pass the legislation, but that they will fail if the governor communicates with their offices only by press release on the scope and nature of the call for the session.

“You cannot expect us to succeed if you exempt critical reforms and ignore months of work that both House and Senate leaders have spent to write this historic legislation,” the two leaders wrote. “The people of our great state expect more from its elected leadership.”

A spokesman for Nixon said the governor’s office is on track to begin the session in early September. Legislative leaders have said they want a Sept. 6 staring date, in advance of the regularly scheduled veto session set for Sept. 14.

SUSAN REDDEN is a staff writer for the Globe. She can be reached at or 417-623-3480, ext. 7258.