JEFFERSON CITY - State representatives criticized the governor's plan to use taxpayer money to build the new Fulton State Hospital.
Gov. Jay Nixon proposed the projected be funded by supplemental bonds because, he said, they are backed by taxes and do not require voter approval. By avoiding a vote, Nixon says construction on a new facility can start sooner.
Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-St. Louis County, said she thinks supplemental bonds are only supposed to be used in case of emergency or unforseen expenses.
"Since the day I started in this committee, we've had this conversation year after year," Haefner said. "Then all of a sudden it's in a supplemental budget. I'm just having a hard time reconciling this request...long-time investments shouldn't be made with short-term cash."
Budget Director Linda Luebbering said supplemental bonds are commitments, assurances to bond owners. She said setting money aside in a sink fund now ensures enough will be left to start building a new facility sooner.
Commissioners from the Office of Administration said Missouri has used taxes to pay for projects in the past. But Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, said following precedent is not always the right thing to do. Fitzpatrick expressed concerns about what this method of funding could mean for Missouri's economic and political future.
"If (we) fail to appropriate this debt back, it will be catastrophic to the state," Fitzpatrick said. "If we do this, we are binding the hands of many General Assemblies to come without the vote of the people."
The committee took no immediate action on the proposed budget.