Missouri Lawmakers Fail to Override Line-Item Budget Vetoes
Missouri lawmakers failed in a bid Wednesday to override several line-item budget vetoes affecting services for critically ill patients, troubled youths and the deaf after senators declined to challenge the decisions made by Gov. Mike Parson.
The House had voted by large margins Wednesday to override four of Parson's budget vetoes totaling more than $785,000. But the effort later died in the Senate, which declined to vote on the measures.
Parson made 21 line-item vetoes totaling more than $12 million when he enacted the state's $28.6 billion budget for the fiscal year that started July 1. He also vetoed three other pieces of legislation, two of which he put on the agenda for a special legislative session dealing with an expansion of drug treatment courts and high school computer science courses.
The House override votes were somewhat unusual, because lawmakers don't frequently override governors of their same party. Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate, though Senate Democrats picked up an additional member Wednesday when Rep. Lauren Arthur moved up following a June special election.
Parson is a Republican who previously served in the House and Senate and was lieutenant governor before taking over June 1 for Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned while facing potential impeachment over allegations of sexual and political misconduct.
Parson said he was "pleased that Missouri's fiscally responsible budget was upheld" by lawmakers. He also praised the House for voting Wednesday to pass new versions of the drug court and computer science legislation. Those bills are expected to be considered later this week in the Senate.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick said the override votes weren't meant as a rebuke of Parson, but he added that some of the vetoes were "made with not enough information."
"I have a lot of respect for the governor. He came into office at a very turbulent time and did not have much time to review the budget before he had to take action on it," said Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Cassville.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown, a Rolla Republican, urged colleagues not to override the governor. He said Parson's administration assured him that the items either could be funded through existing budgets or resubmitted to lawmakers as supplemental spending requests during their regular session that begins in January.
The budget vetoes that the House voted to override included:
— $487,000 for juvenile advocacy units in the Kansas City and St. Louis offices of the public defender system. Fitzpatrick said the funding "could be the difference between a life completely derailed and not" for youths facing charges. Brown said the governor would resubmit the proposed spending to lawmakers in January.
— $153,546 for a state program that certifies hospitals as time-critical trauma centers for heart attack and stroke patients. After the veto, Parson said the Department of Health and Senior Services would nonetheless continue providing the service with other funds. But Fitzpatrick and some other lawmakers contend the governor lacks the legal authority to do so unless they overrode his veto.
— $100,000 for the Office of Child Advocate. Fitzpatrick said the money would pay for employees to conduct independent reviews of local offices that provide services to troubled youths. The reviews were authorized under a 2015 state law that Parson supported. Brown said the governor would resubmit the proposed spending in January.
— $45,000 for the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Fitzpatrick said the money would pay for someone to oversee grants to organizations serving the deaf and blind. The grants were authorized by a 2016 law that Parson supported. Brown said the commission could handle the task with its existing budget.
The House fell a little short of overriding Parson on another line-item veto that would have allotted $50,000 in grants for local law enforcement agencies to purchase tourniquets.
State Rep. Kevin Engler, a Republican from Farmington, encouraged colleagues to oppose the veto overrides. He said the amounts of money at issue seemed insignificant in the scope of the overall state budget.
"Overriding the governor on these items is not what our constitution was set up for in my opinion," Engler said.