Sunday, May 09, 2004

At the potluck picnic yesterday, Lisa and I were comparing our ignorance about Governor Holden withholding education funds for several months. We knew the Republicans claimed that he could have released the funds in November instead of April and that he's been playing politics with the money. I asked Joe what he knew, and he suspects the funds were there, but that the Republicans had somehow managed a shell game to hide them for several months and make Holden look bad. That's the notion I'd like to believe. Do you have any support you can give us for that theory, Joe? Any of the rest of you know more about this issue? Dave Depker, how about you? You have a better grasp of state issues than some of us.

We're so focused on getting Bush out, that state politics slips past most of us. Well, focusing is good. Even so, I'd be interested to hear what the rest of you know.

Here's the relevant part of the Post-Dispatch article on it.

Holden releases $127 million for education
By Terry Ganey

JEFFERSON CITY -- Gov. Bob Holden announced today that he was releasing $127 million in previously withheld funds for public schools and higher education institutions. The governor said a combination of positive budgeting developments---not improving state revenues--prompted him to make the decision.

Holden said the state could released the funds because:

--$50 million set aside for potential refunds in a pending court case would not have to be paid this year.

--$40 million had been saved by budget cutting in state government through fewer employees and administrative efficiencies.

--$36 million less than expected had been drawn down by taxpayers taking economic development tax credits.

--$8 million more than expected had come to the state in tobacco settlement money.

"I have said that I would release funding for education as soon as it is fiscally responsible to do so, and this new information makes that release possible," said Holden, a Democrat. "I am pleased to return these withholdings for the schools. However, this action does nothing to fix the harm our schools incurred when the Republicans in the Legislature voted to cut $155 million in education funding last year."

As governor, Holden is charged with balancing the state budget and not spending more than the state receives. He has the power to withhold funds appropriated by the Legislature if he believes revenues will be insufficient to support the appropriations. Holden had withheld about $115 million from elementary and secondary schools and $12 million from public colleges, universities and community colleges.

Republicans had been calling on Holden for months to release the school funds.

House Budget Committee Chairman Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said Holden's announcement made this week a good one for Missouri schools, coming on top of the $146 million the House added to school funding when it passed the budget.

"I think education has done very well this week," Bearden said. He added that the explanations Holden used for releasing the funds "have been known for several months.

"The governor could have done it back in November when we started asking for him to," Bearden said. "It's been a long time, but it's here and it's money that now the schools can use whether this year or to put in the reserves for next year."

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said he was pleased that the money had been released.

"We believe it is essential not only to approve funds for education, but also to assure those funds reach classrooms in Missouri," Kinder said. "I only wish that the funding would have been available at the beginning of the school year as it was appropriated instead of the beginning of summer vacation when it was released by Gov. Holden."

Paul Sloca, a spokesman for the Missouri Republican Party, said Holden had used Missouri children for political purposes.


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