Last week Democratic Governor Bob Holden rejected the education budget bills sent to him by the GOP dominated House and Senate. The General Assembly June 24 went in session for round three of the budget battles.
“For the second time, the legislature sent me a budget that is out of balance,” Holden said. “The legislative leadership has failed to pass a balanced budget.”
Holden called for an emergency measure to keep elementary and primary schools and colleges running for the next three months. He seeks another special session in September to address education funding.
Holden claims that the budget is $240 million out of balance. He announced that effective July 1, the commencement of the new fiscal year, he will withhold $190 million from elementary and secondary education, $20 million from higher education and $30 million from other state agencies.
Nevertheless, he signed the revised budget bills for health, mental health, senior services, and social services. He originally had vetoed these bills at the conclusion of the regular session.
However, expectations are that the Republican-controlled General Assembly will not pass emergency appropriations. They will send back to Holden the same education budgets that he has vetoed. This will force a showdown between the legislature and the executive branch.
If Holden again vetoes the education budgets, the budget impasse will place the state in uncharted waters. The state constitution requires lawmakers appropriate funding for the public debt and education before all other state programs. Legal experts will have to determine whether other departments can be funded if there are no education budgets.
“The Governor’s request for an emergency appropriation is questionable, if not impossible, under the constitution,” said Peter Kinder, R- Cape Girardeau, President Pro Tem of the Senate. “The constitution specifically binds us to pass appropriations for one or two-year budgets. What Governor Holden has proposed is unworkable, and we fear it may be unconstitutional as well.”