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NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of October 5, 2009

Missouri has borrowed $150 million from budget reserves to fund such programs as education and Medicare.

Although state revenue collection is down 10 percent for the year, Budget Director Linda Luebbering said this borrowing is a separate issue from Missouri's decline in revenue.

Gov. Jay Nixon will address the loss in revenue collection with further budget cuts, Luebbering said. She added that this money will be used to address immediate cash flow issues. The state has tapped into the fund nine out of the past 10 years.

Friday's withdrawal leaves $170 million in the fund, which begins the year with a $520 million balance. The state took $125 million out of the fund in July and another $75 million in August. All money borrowed must be paid back to the fund by May 15.

Missouri Department of Public Safety spokesman Mike O'Connell says Missouri and other agencies across the nation are currently reviewing what the Federal government has proposed.

O'Connell says the state will announce if it will accept or decline the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's proposal late next week.

AmerenUE has asked for a interim rate increase to offset losses from lower demand and safety improvements.

The Public Counsel said AmerenUE does not qualify for the emergency standards previously required by the PSC for a rate increase.

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In response to a CBS news story highlighting the dangers of a potentially harmful  experts in Missouri say the potentially harmful waste byproduct fly ash is being safely contained in Missouri.

Ameren UE spokesperson Tim Fox says the company uses half of its fly ash to make concrete and properly stores the other half.

The state will take in nearly 20,000 doses of the swine flu vaccine this week, a state Health Department spokesperson said.

Local health agencies are in charge of distributing the vaccines to health care providers, such as doctors and clinics.

While most Missourians won't be covered by this week's doses, the state is set to receive 70,000 vaccines next week and nearly 300,000 more two weeks from now.

Overall tax collections have dropped by 10 percent compared to the same period last year according to State Budget Director Linda Luebbering.

Scott Holste, Gov. Jay Nixon's spokesperson, expects the governor to make additional budget cuts based on these numbers.

The Foundation Formula - which funds K-12 education - will not be one of the areas considered for budget cuts, Luebbering said.

Last Week

The spokesperson for the Natural Resources Department said Friday that two department employees have been suspended for five days without pay.

The suspensions are said to be part of the investigation into the department's failure to close beaches at Lake of the Ozarks after high bacteria contamination had been discovered.

The department refused to identify the employees nor would the department describe their job duties.

Earlier, the governor had suspended the department's director for two weeks without pay for failing to tell him the beaches had not been closed.

Missouri's Office of Administration reported Friday the state had suffered a 9.97% drop for the first quarter of the budget year.

Administration officials had been expecting a decline, but not at the level of nearly $190 million less in revenue collections for the last three months compared to the same three-month period last year.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said she could not recall the last time the state had suffered a similar revenue decline in a budget quarter.

Although the administration already has made spending-authorization cuts, Luebbering warned the latest figures would require more belt tightening.

Attorney General Chris Koster announced Thursday that he was suspending any new settlement agreements under the state's Second Injury Fund.

The program pays the health coverage claims for disabled and injured workers who become reinjured on the job.

Koster reported that the solvency of the fund, financed by business assessments, was in jeopardy.

For some time legislators have been warned of financial problems with the program because of a cut in the assessment charged to business to finance the program.

After Governor Nixon dismissed DNR Director Mark Templeton, the Missouri Republican Party stepped forward, saying Nixon needs to take action against three of his top staff members who may have known about the dangerous E. Coli levels in the Lake of the Ozarks.

So far, Nixon's staffers have no comment in regards to the GOP's statement.

But Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder's top spokesman said there are too many unanswered questions revolving around the issues, and accused the DNR of a cover-up.

Health Departments in Missouri are not worried about a shortage in seasonal flu vaccines.

Kansas City is temporarily out of adult seasonal flu vaccine, but are not concerned because they are expecting a new shipment in shortly.

St. Louis County has yet to see a lack of seasonal flu vaccine.

Missouri Senator Chuck Purgason is tired of being ignored by Congressman Roy Blunt.

Purgason wants to talk to Blunt about the future of the Republican Party.

With a one-sentence letter, state Rep. T.D. El-Amin, D-St. Louis City, officially resigned from the Missouri House of Representatives Sept. 30.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who's job it is to receive resignation letters when the legislature is not in session, said in a press release, "There is simply no place in public service for those who are involved in bribery."

A special election will be held on Feb. 2, according the release.

Just days after reports surfaced that a top aide of the governor's office knew about pollution levels at the Lake of the Ozarks, Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon suspended the head of the Department of Natural Resources.

Using words like "unconscionable" and "disgust" suspended Department of Natural Resources head Mark Templeton for two weeks without pay and announced an investigation into the Department of Natural Resources.

Nixon made the announcement in a conference call with the media Wednesday, where his staff stated he would not take questions from reporters.

Templeton provided the governor's office with incorrect information regarding beach closures in late May due to unacceptable levels of E. coli, Nixon said in the conference call. The department claimed a beach at the Lake of the Ozarks had been closed during a period from May 18 - June 11 when it had not.

Nixon described both the failure to close the beach and the incorrect information as "the latest in a series of failures" by the department and said he was "angrier than words can describe."

The spokeswoman from the Department of Natural Resources testified that the aide knew about the high pollution levels May 29. The governor has maintained that he didn't know until June 29.

Nixon repeated his earlier statements that he was personally not aware of the E. Coli levels until a month after the high levels were discovered.

The investigation will look into systemic problems within the Department of Natural Resources and possible solutions.

State Rep. T.D. El-Amin says he will resign Oct. 1.

He says he was forthcoming with his resignation and submitted paperwork to the governor's office dated September 24, 2009.

El-Amin plans entered a plea for the charges of bribery and will be sentenced in December.

The first challenge to a red light citation in Columbia was dismissed in municipal court on Monday.

So far Columbia has issued 152 citations and 30 have been paid. Currently there is one other outstanding affidavit that will be in court Oct. 5.

A portion of the proposed lines will overlap with lines used by telecommunications companies.

The proposed lines will ignore a broadband deficient area in Jefferson County.

The state Transportation Department will award $1.55 million to more than 1,000 employees this year.

MoDOT is the only state agency to give bonuses, and they come at a time where other state workers' salaries are frozen.

But the legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon can do little to stop the system because MoDOT fuds itself through revenue such as the gas tax.

Days after the Kansas City Star reported a top staffer of the governor's office had been told about pollution at Lake of the Ozarks, Gov. Jay Nixon said he wasn't told.

At a news conference in Kansas City on Monday, Nixon said any information about the pollution reports that might have been passed to the governor's staff was never brought to his personal attention.

Just days earlier, the Star reported that a Natural Resources Department staffer told Senate investigators she had told an aid to Nixon about the pollution problems nearly a month before the governor's office has claimed it know about the issue.

The aid, the department's public information officer, has since left her position. The governor's aide she said she had told is Jeff Mazure.