South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Senate budget sends message to state agencies

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate passed its own version of the state budget Monday and the chamber’s top budget negotiator made several cuts to send a clear message to state agencies.

The full chamber passed several recommendations made by Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, to cut funding for state agencies involved in sharing personal information and scanning documents Missourian’s use to apply for driver’s licenses.

Schaefer and other Republican lawmakers have criticized Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration and the Department of Revenue for compiling a list of the state’s 163,000 conceal-carry permit holders that made its way to the U.S. Social Security Administration. The Senate voted to eliminate the Motor Vehicle and Drivers License Division’s funding, as Schaefer said still has has more questions for the department.

“It’s inappropriate to appropriate the public’s money if you can’t get a decent response from a state agency,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said he still does not have confirmation that the list of conceal-carry permit holders was destroyed. Schaefer also wants to know who dealt with the list, how their decisions were made and why they were made. Brian Long resigned as director of the department on April 16 and Nixon said the department will no longer scan or keep the documents needed to obtain a conceal-carry permit.

Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, said he does not know of any other firings or any other actions the Nixon administration has taken and he said the governor should be taking more action.

“There are 163,000 Missourians that probably also don’t feel like that satisfies what was perpetrated against the people of Missouri,” Nieves said.

Schaefer said that in five years as a lawmaker, he has never seen agencies as unresponsive as some have been this year. He said the appropriations process has gotten lazier and state agencies snag more authority to spend taxpayer money.

“These lines get more and more vague and these things just get lumped together,” Schaefer said.

The Senate budget also cuts $20 million in funding for the director’s office in the Department of Public Safety. The department oversees the Missouri Highway Patrol, which told the Senate Appropriations Committee that it received the conceal-carry list from the Department of Revenue and sent it to the Social Security Administration.

Schaefer said he will work to get answers before House and Senate leaders meet to work out the differences between the plans in the two chambers.

Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said lawmakers have a number of budget items they will have to work out before the deadline on May 10. Justus said individual agencies may not cough up what Schaefer is looking for and may not offer any new answers at all with just a few weeks left in the session.

“My concern is that this is a reckless game to play,” Justus said.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the Legislature can use its power of the purse to coerce an action or behavior, but should not deprive agencies of funding to play a leverage game. Schmitt said if the Department of Revenue is not being cooperative, the Legislature should consider ways it can approach the issue directly.