Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich filed a lawsuit today claiming Gov. Jay Nixon’s budget withholdings violate the state constitution.
In June, Nixon withheld $172 million from the budget for fiscal year 2012, although the fiscal year didn’t begin until July 1. Schweich says Nixon can’t make withholding decisions before the fiscal year begins and that he didn’t have any revenue data to support the decision.
Schweich also said Nixon provided $150 million to provide disaster relief for Joplin, including some money that came from the withheld funds. The lawsuit alleges that violates the Legislature’s power to determine how money is appropriated.
“Our state has recently experienced natural disasters of historic proportion,” Schweich said in a press release. “There is no dispute that the victims of the tornadoes and floods must be fully compensated for their tragic losses. But the process must be legal and transparent. There are many legal and transparent ways to do this.”
In a statement, the governor’s office touted Missouri’s AAA bond rating, which it attributed to Nixon’s withholdings.
“The Governor will continue to fulfill his responsibility to balance the state budget, fund essential government services and help our communities recover in the wake of the many natural disasters this year, including the devastating tornado that hit Joplin,” spokesman Scott Holste said in the statement. “Gov. Nixon will continue to ensure that Missouri will meet its obligations to help communities recover and rebuild from these disasters.”
The lawsuit also alleges the withholdings were politically motivated because Schweich’s office and the Republican-led Legislature lost funding, but the governor and other Democratic officials did not. The governor’s office didn’t respond specifically to that charge.
The suit, filed in Cole County Circuit Court, asks a judge to restore the withheld funds.
The case is Schweich v. Nixon, 11AC-CC00567.