Missouri House and Senate leaders are balking at Gov. Eric Greitens’ plan to establish a line of credit to ensure that all state income tax refunds are paid on time.
The $250 million credit line is part of the governor’s proposed state budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1. But President Pro-tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, gave a flat-out “no” to that idea while talking with the media Thursday.
“In 2012, Gov. Jay Nixon tried to do that,” Richard said. “We thought that was a bad idea then, so it continues to be a bad idea.”
Fellow Republican, Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla, also said it’s not necessary.
“All these departments have 10 to 20 percent flexibility (and) some of them sit on some pretty high balances,” he said. “Governors and people in the past have slid money around to meet these refunds – we know this is going to come up every year, so it shouldn’t be a big surprise.”
House budget committee chair Scott Fitzpatrick also nixed the idea. He said he’d rather rely on the already-existing budget reserve fund.
“The way the budget reserve fund was set up, to be paid back for the last 45 days of the fiscal year, is a good structure, so that we don’t become entirely reliant on using the full balance of a revolving loan all year long,” he said. “I think it will force some fiscal discipline, whereas (the line of credit) may create an incentive to not be quite as disciplined on cash management.”
A recent state audit found that refunds were delayed in part because Greitens chose to pay for other state expenses first.
“Things like rent, maybe the security for (the Capitol) building, payroll, all of those spending obligations that passed in the budget — they have to pay those out,” State Auditor Nicole Galloway said at the time. “And then they have taxpayer refunds that are paid secondary.”
A spokesman for the governor responded by accusing her of using the audit to make headlines. Galloway, a Democrat, is running for a full term as state auditor.
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