GOP Spending Spree May Help Nixon

State lawmakers may have unwittingly helped the re-election campaign for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

State lawmakers may have unwittingly helped the re-election campaign for Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

The Missouri General Assembly, controlled by Republicans, passed a $24.1 billion budget that will increase spending 3.4 percent next fiscal year, starting July 1, compared to this fiscal year.

The budget is more than $1 billion higher than the plan proposed by the governor, a Democrat.

In addition to promising to hold the line on taxes, Nixon outlined a proposal that would have cut year-over-year spending by around 1 percent.

Making it even tougher for any Repubican candidate hoping to oust the Democrat, Nixon is only one of three governors -- two Democrats and one Republican -- in the last 30 years to manage a drop in spending while in office.

Plus, when former Gov. Matt Blunt, a Repubican, held office from 2005 to 2009 and the GOP controlled the legislature, spending increased every year.

Any GOP candidate for governor, therefore, will have a hard time arguing that they will have a better chance than Nixon at convincing lawmakers to cut spending, not raise taxes, and balance the budget.

GOP Cries Foul

Republicans are already starting to accuse me of mischaracterizing the budget proposal.

My email inbox is full of complaints from lawmakers, candidates, and campaign managers.

Here's their basic argument: Nixon's plan contains hundreds of 'E' appropriations, which stands for estimates. Therefore, by eliminating the estimates, Republicans are providing a more accurate plan.

First, a budget is an estimate of future spending. An estimate is an estimate is an estimate.

Second, putting the estimates aside, the proposal by lawmakers still increases spending 3.4 percent compared to the amount appropriated for this year. Plus, if all of the appropriations are spent this fiscal year, spending will increase almost 5 percent compared to total expenditures last year.

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are sending out press releases touting the restoration of funding to various programs, while politicians on both sides of the aisle are talking about budget cuts.

The simple fact, however, is that total state spending is going up.

Between now and November, it will be up to the politicians on how they want to spin it. More importantly, though, it will be up to the voters on whether or not they want to believe it.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missourijournal.com, (314) 482-7944

Hook is editor of Missouri Journal, which tracks the economy across the Show-Me State

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