Last year Governor Nixon froze $400 million worth of spending allocated for education, state services and capital improvements. He took this action in order to make it clear that efforts by the legislature to override his veto of HB253 would result in long-term damage to state revenue that would have to be offset by reallocating funds:
“The choice before us is stark and clear,” Nixon told reporters. “Members of the General Assembly can either support House Bill 253 or they can support education, but they can’t do both.”
The Governor’s dramatic action, which simply underlined the detailed evidence he had already made available to support his arguments against the tax-cut, seemed to have worked. HB253 went down in figurative flames, enabling Nixon to free up some of the frozen funds.
Given the braying about spending offsets for every piece of social services spending that we get from national Republican legislators, you’d expect our GOP homies would understand how it works and man up. But no way. Nixon’s strategy enraged plenty of Republicans who were confident that they were going to be able to deliver a juicy tax-cut for their corporate patrons. Who, after all, likes to be outplayed, especially when, to all appearances, one holds all the cards?
But elephants never forget, and state GOPers now think they’ve figured out a way to get payback and thwart future efforts to make education the topic when they want it to be nothing but tax-cuts:
The Missouri Constitution allows the governor to control the rate appropriations are spent and to reduce spending when state revenues are less than the estimate upon which the budget is based.
Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey, of Kanas City, has proposed a constitutional amendment that would exclude spending through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from that budget-trimming authority. A constitutional amendment would require a statewide vote if it passes the Legislature.
There you have it: Rep. Silvey’s SJR45 , a tit-for-tat move that, by putting a constitutional amendment on the state ballot, seeks to tilt the playing board for future tax policy games. It’s an interesting move since Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones claimed that the Governor was violating the constitution last year. The fact that nobody took the Governor to court and that the GOP is now hoping to ask Missourians to amend their constitution, suggests that they didn’t really think the constitutional objection had much weight. Republicans were simply playing the empty constitutional card that they always pull when they’ve not got anything else up their sleeves.
Although the true purpose of of Silvey’s gambit is clear, he also wants to pose as a stalwart supporter of education by ignoring the context the Governor’s actions, the threat posed by the Republican corporate tax-cut, tweeting “Today I filed SJR45 to amend the MO Constitution to prohibit the Governor from withholding money from schools. Education is too important. ” Damn straight education’s important. That’s why the Governor did what he did.
Silvey later added, “My SJR45 will finally remove school kids from being a piece on the Governor’s political chess board.” I don’t know about you, but I’d be glad to let the Governor use my children as pieces on his “political chess board” if it saved their schools from Republican raids on the state’s revenue stream. Good schools cost money. Heck, even mediocre schools cost money. Tax-cuts for corporations and rich people take the money we need for schools, among other things, and, to be honest, they haven’t done much for the economy of states that have beggared themselves through this type of tax-cutting. What we ought to be asking Silvey is, if he’s so big on eduction, why isn’t he proposing a way to secure some new revenue to pay for it?
Nobody wants to hurt education and, in general, at any rate, everybody likes the idea of tax-cuts, but the two are tightly linked in Missouri, a state that currently can’t manage to properly fund its schools. Why does it bother Republicans so much when this linkage is made explicit? Why can’t they be upfront about the consequences of their low- or no-tax philosophy? And finally, why should anyone vote for Silvey’s constitutional amendment, which is no more than a cynical effort to checkmate a Governor who’s trying against all odds to improve Missouri’s mediocre educational system.