Sweeping budget cuts proposed for statewide elected officials

By Christi Warren

JEFFERSON CITY – A House committee gave approval to a bill Wednesday that would cut 5 percent from the budgets of statewide elected officials.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, the same representative who spearheaded last week’s interrogation of Governor Nixon’s chief of staff, John Watson, about the governor’s travel costs. The House Appropriations Committee on General Administration worked Wednesday to approve the final budget — without Silvey, and without the travel records that they had been promised by the governor’s office more than a week ago, about which Chairman Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles, commented, “People promise a lot of things.”

Cuts of 5 percent would be taken from the budgets of state offices, including those of the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state. One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, described that as “only fair.”

“We are in a tough budget climate,” Barnes said. “The burden needs to be shared. Our statewide elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, [should] have some budget cuts of their own.”

Rep. Steve Webb, D-St. Louis, opposes the bill, describing himself as “not one to cut just to be cutting.”

“Sometimes what we do in government is say, ‘Hey, we’re going to cut you guys just because it looks good,'” Webb said. “We have to have an understanding of what these state officers actually do and their importance to the state.”

Webb is also worried about where the cuts will be made, saying his opinion of the bill would likely be swayed if the committee made proposals for where the officials could make their cuts.

Barnes brought up the more than 1,200 employee layoffs that the government has suffered and said, “If we are cutting state employees, we have to expect our statewide elected officials to be willing to bear some of the burdens of budget cuts.”

The bill passed the committee by a 9-3 vote. It faces the House Budget Committee before it can go up for a vote in the House.