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Senate Approves Budget Without State Employee Raises

April 19, 2001
By: Ben Paynter and Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate approved a 2002 Missouri budget Thursday with no pay raises for state employees.

Senators offered several amendments designed to buoy state wages, including a proposal that would have used $44.8 million from the tobacco settlement, but did not pass a salary increase.

Gov. Bob Holden said he doubted state employee wage appropriations would change.

"I wouldn't say I'm optimistic," Holden said at a press conference following the Senate action. "But if there is any way we can, I would be receptive to it."

Some senators expressed concern about dedicating funds to the Cardinals Stadium and MU Life Sciences Center "against the needs of other people in the state."

Sen. John Schneider, D-Florissant, who proposed the $44.8 million pay raise, questioned $15 million earmarked for "mission enhancement" at MU.

"We are doing that rather than giving money to state employees," Schneider said.

He called the tobacco fund "one-time money" that should not be used for the "great luxury" of building construction costs.

Other senators said that wage appropriations at the end of the session were not the "proper time, place, or use for tobacco money."

Holden said the tobacco fund had always been earmarked for life sciences and health research.

In response to questions about using the tobacco money for pay increases, Holden said: "I don't think that's appropriate."

"The frustration being expressed today is over the shortfall in funds," Sen. Morris Westfall, R-Halfway, said during debate. "The pulling and tugging of funds is the strongest I've seen in appropriations."

Funding for state salaries may prove even more difficult to pass during the next session because of election year politics, some senators said.

In the event that lawmakers approve an unbalanced budget for 2002, the governor may be forced to use his line-item veto to cut appropriations until a balance is reached between revenues and expenditures.

Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls for this year's budget may jeopardize funding of MU's Life Sciences Center.

Holden said a change in projected tax revenue may result in a shortfall of up to $100 million in the current budget.

Holden said he would ask state officials to tighten their fiscal belts, but funding for capital improvement programs could be held back -- including a $30 million Life Sciences Center at MU -- if revenue were to come up short.

"I'm hoping that we'll be able to fund those," Holden said of the capital projects. "But at this point in time, I can't release them."

Brian Long, the state budget director, said he expected a final decision on the projects in June, by which time Holden would be able to gauge whether the state could afford them in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

"It seems prudent to hang on to this for a while and see where we end up," Long said.