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House defeats Rainy Day Proposal

April 09, 2002
By: Matt Williams
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 1114

Sponsor: Rep. Tim Green, D-St. Louis County

JEFFERSON CITY - Lawmakers defeated Gov. Bob Holden's proposal to tap into the state's Rainy Day Fund, with the plan falling short of the support it needed to pass the House Tuesday.

House members voted 87-70, largely along party lines, to borrow $53 million from the fund. However, the vote falls 22 votes short of the two-thirds required to use the special fund.

Democrats, who voted unanimously for the proposal, said the House would be skirting its responsibility to pass a balanced budget if it didn't use the fund.

"We have a responsibility in my opinion to balance this budget," said Rep. Jim Foley, D-St. Louis County. "Let's send it over to the Senate as a balanced budget."

All but two Republicans voted against using the fund, with leaders saying the budget was based on faulty projections. Republican leader Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, said the state should wait to borrow money from the fund until it is sure it will need the money to pay the state's bills.

"Do you go get cash advances on your credit card, sit there on the cash, hoard the cash, pay the interest when you don't even have a need for the money?" Hanaway said. "That's what you're suggesting the state do right now."

Hanaway argued that the budget is based on a guess of what tax revenues will be, and that the state shouldn't borrow from the fund unless it is absolutely necessary.

According to the constitution, money taken from the fund must be paid back over the next three years with interest, leading Republicans to say the state should cut spending instead of going into debt.

"We're digging a hole." said Rep. Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill. "We need to quit digging the hole of debt, because it's going to be a long, hard hole to climb out of."

After the vote, Holden told reporters at a press conference that he was disappointed with the "irresponsible" action taken by the House and would try to work with Senate leaders to pass the measure there.

"I look forward to working with the Senate to try to rectify the irresponsible action presented out of the House today," Holden said.

But a bit earlier the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, chuckled when asked if the plan would be taken up by the Senate. He said the Senate would only consider the proposal if it had passed with more than a two-thirds vote of the House. Without a show of support from the House, Russell said the plan was not likely to go far in the Senate.

"As far as I know there's not going to be any effort made to get us into the Rainy Day Fund," he said.

Russell said the Senate would work out its own budget, which he said could include a smaller increase for the school Foundation Formula, the mechanism that distributes state money to local school districts.