The Missouri Supreme Court has dismissed state Auditor Tom Schweich’s suit challenging Gov. Jay Nixon’s authority to withhold money allocated in state budget, ruling among other things that the auditor acted too quickly. The 6-0 decision also reaffirmed that the Missouri constitution grants the governor broad powers to reduce or restrict state spending during the budget year.
Under the Missouri constitution, the state government must end each fiscal year with a balanced budget, and the governor long has been considered to have substantial powers to ensure that happens.
The governor can cut budgeted money outright or “withhold” it until it’s clear that the state has enough revenue to cover the allocation. Nixon’s actions were in line many previous governors, notably Republican John Ashcroft, who would withhold budgeted money early in the fiscal year, and then restore some or all of it later. In a first by a Missouri state auditor, Schweich filed suit in 2011 accusing Nixon of “violating the state constitution when he withheld more than $170 million from state agencies, programs and educational institutions prior to the start of the current fiscal year.”