Governor Jay Nixon (D) has released just over half of the $400 million he withheld earlier this year from Missouri's current state budget.
In a press release, he announced that $215 million will be divvied up among K-12 schools, higher education, mental health programs and specific programs for training health care professionals in southwest Missouri. Nixon released the money Thursday, one day after Republican lawmakers failed to override his veto of a controversial tax cut bill.
"The fiscal uncertainties (were) the reason for that (decision to withhold funding)," Nixon told reporters Wednesday, "and we will be moving very expeditiously to get those dollars out (to) where they can make a difference."
The Governor is still withholding $185 million earmarked for construction and repairs to state buildings. Several Republican lawmakers have since chimed in and called on Nixon to release the rest of it. State Representative Tom Flanigan (R, Carthage) is vice chair of the House Budget Committee. He says the Governor should only withhold money from the state budget if there's a financial emergency.
"Not only has he abused the withhold system for what it was never intended to be, (but) he's also taken the budget and he's used it to just beat people on the head with it," Flanigan said. "You know, to bully them."
Nixon is on record as saying this year's withholds were necessary because of the risk of lawmakers overturning his veto on House Bill 253, which he says would have gutted funding for education and mental health programs.
Meanwhile, another Republican lawmaker has announced he'll file a proposed constitutional amendment that would bar the Governor's office from withholding money from the state budget. State Representative Todd Richardson of Poplar Bluff says if passed by lawmakers, his proposal would then go before Missouri voters.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport