LEE’S SUMMIT – August 30, 2011: Tom Schweich, the Missouri State Auditor filed a law suit against Governor Nixon according to the Missouri State Auditor website (http://www.auditor.mo.gov/). It states, “ State Auditor Tom Schweich announced today his office has filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court asserting Gov. Jay Nixon violated the Missouri Constitution and failed to utilize established accounting principles when he withheld more than $170 million from state agencies, programs and educational institutions prior to the start of the current fiscal year.”
Further explaining the reasoning, the website states that, “On August 19, the state auditor’s office sent a letter to the governor expressing serious concerns about the legality and financial basis for his withholds. The letter noted that neither the governor nor any budget official could provide any supporting data (spreadsheets, ledger books, cash balance sheets, projections, studies, analyses or any other data) to support the withholdings.” The main claim is that Govern Nixon’s office violated the Missouri State Constitution which states that, “the governor can only make withholds based on current fiscal year revenue data, at which time there was none.”
To this point, I have no problem with what Tom Schweich’s office has done. It looks as if this is strictly a constitutional issue. Where I begin to find issue with the action is where the Auditor’s office noted that, “the governor withheld funds from the Republican controlled legislature and the Republican auditor, but did not cut funds for his own office or any Democrat statewide elected official.”
An editorial in the website stltoday.com apparently owned in part or in whole by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, titled Auditor’s lawsuit values his budget over victims of Joplin tornado, puts and interesting twist to the lawsuit. It is their claim that “In a nutshell: The governor is wrong to cut the auditor’s budget to pay for rebuilding the devastation caused by the Joplin tornado.”
Missouri Watchdog (http://www.watchdog.org) reported on August 30th that Schweich defends suing Nixon and wants an editorial retraction. In the piece by Brian R. Hook, Schweich is quoted to have said, “For them to write an article saying I don’t care about them, is corrupt, dishonest, and a total disservice to the people of Missouri.”
It is interesting to note that Tom Schweich is a fiscal conservative with great credentials. In the About page at http://www.tomscweich.com you can find the following:
Now more than ever, Missouri needs an aggressive independent auditor to root out waste, fraud and abuse. As a former U.S. ambassador, award-winning fiscal conservative author, prosecutor, international law enforcement official, law professor, and patriot who served his country fighting terrorism, drugs, money laundering, and organized crime in Afghanistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and dozens of other countries around the world, Tom Schweich brings his fiscal conservative background and a history dedicated to public service to the Missouri Auditor’s race
As a State Auditor, Mr. Schweich needs to focus on the proper accounting practices of the State as well as find ways were waste can be eliminated. Any time that Missouri collects taxes, it reaches into our pockets and someone should be accountable for the use of the money. It has to be an appropriate expenditure. It has to be within the budget. It has to ensure we are fiscally responsible.
My problem with Governor Nixon is not that he is prudently withholding money that was appropriated (Washington should learn to do that more often), but the fact that he’s balanced the budget using Federal funds that we know are not going to be available much longer and thus aggravating the situation next year.
Perhaps in our legal system Mr. Schweich has to find the proper grounds to file the lawsuit; I’m not a lawyer, I’m just an Engineer. But to me the real issue has to be the lack of procedural transparency that lets all of us know where our money is actually spent. I worry about the increases in Missouri’s budget since I moved here in 1998.
Missouri Watchdog did some research and it shows that since 1981 through the fiscal year ending June 30, spending has increased in Missouri 508 percent. That is money that is coming out of your pocket and mine. Government size is exploding all around us, not just in Washington. The total inflation (and if you think about it our wage increases are closely linked to the inflation rate, if not a little behind it on the average) was 160 percent. That means the Missouri State budget has increased at a rate that is over 3 times the inflation rate.
The spending spree, though much better in Missouri than in Washington is still by no means acceptable.
The $170 million that Governor Nixon is withholding needs to be explained. The reasons and the methodology for selecting which budgets get cut as the year progresses and reality (like the Joplin Tornado) affect our priorities. It should not be done in secret. Secrets tend to make us all think that there are backroom deals going on, and it is – after all – our money they are spending.
I sincerely hope that our State Auditor is not pushing for the use of the $170 million as planned. I hope he is truly pushing for clarification of the process, and sound fiscal controls that rein in needless spending.
The Lee’s Summit Conservative