JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri House approved legislation to add an amendment to the state Constitution to put a cap on future state spending on Thursday.
Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Springfield, sponsored the constitutional amendment, which was the first bill passed by the House this legislative session.
If the measure is approved by the voters, later this year, there would be a cap of annual spending increases at 1.5 percent of the collected revenue from the previous year. This would be in addition to adjustments made by changes in inflation and the population, which one analyst estimates could be as much as 7 percent.
At the House Budget Committee hearing last week former House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, traveled back to the Capital to support the bill, to explain why the bill would help with the booms and busts that have become common in the state budget.
"When the state of Missouri has good years from a revenue standpoint that there is a limitation put in place so that the General Assembly simply cannot spend every dime knowing full well if nothing else that is simply not sustainable," Icet said.
The vote was almost down party lines with Republicans unanimously supporting the measure with the help of one Democrat, Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia. Kelly, the longest tenured member of the Missouri House, is on the House Budget Committee and was supporting the bill's passage.
"I don't think there is any question that we'll see growth. It will be slower, but much more consistent," Kelly said.
Opponents of the bill spoke out saying the caps were unnecessary and could potentially hurt revenue growth in the long term.
Those opponents included Kelly's fellow Democratic representative from Columbia, Rep. Mary Still D-Columbia.
"This will handcuff higher education for the future," Still said.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, voiced his opinion using social media. On his Twitter account, during debate on the bill, he posted, "It gets old hearing false arguments from opponents of a bill because it's easier than actually reading the bill or a better sound bite."
Rep. Jeanette Oxford, D-St. Louis City, added "Let's not constantly amend the Constitution to try to solve future problems, but instead elect good people to make good decisions about the future, when the future gets here."
The bill passed 105 - 54 and the issue now moves to the Senate and as of the bill's passage through the House, no Senator had been identified as the Senate handler.
If the Senate passes the bill, Missouri voters would see the issue on the 2012 ballot.
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