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An open letter to Governor Jay Nixon

A constituent recently wrote me a letter in which he expressed his delight the $10 million appropriated to expand the class size for the University of Missouri’s medical program passed the legislature and reached Governor Nixon’s desk (House Bill 3). This young man, a first-generation college student from your home county, recently graduated from Saint Louis University and is on the waiting list to get into the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

“As June came to an end, I was anxiously awaiting the Governor’s signature on House Bill 3 and was thrilled to find it had been signed,” he wrote. “However, when I heard of the withhold, I was crushed.”

Part of your withholding, governor, is $10 million (a mere quarter of 1 percent of your entire withholding) in annual operating funding to help MU expand its medical school class by 30 percent. If the funding were released as appropriated before July 29, another eight spots would be added to the six or so that move off the waiting list each year. That is almost certainly difference between whether this student is accepted into the medical program or is left on the outside looking in. (Your action here apparently fails to take into account the shortage of physicians our state will face once the provisions of Obamacare are fully implemented.)

By withholding these funds until the September veto session of the Legislature, you’ve dashed this young man’s dream – and the dreams of his entire family –for the sake of your political scheme.

“Currently, my future rests in the hands of Governor Nixon,” he wrote. “I am writing to you, Mr. Kinder, to be my voice and call Governor Nixon and emphasize the importance of this section before the September (veto session).”

By freezing $400 million in state funding already appropriated for education and services to some of Missouri’s most vulnerable residents, you once again are holding Missourians hostage in your political machinations to forestall the state’s first broad-based tax cut in nearly 100 years.

The Post-Dispatch’s July 1 editorial page paean ignored several important details, which undermine your justification for this outrage. As you know, the vast majority of cuts in the tax-cut bill would not affect state revenue until fiscal year 2015 and beyond. So why are you withholding 2014 funds, something the state constitution does not allow?

Further, the tax cuts are conditional and take effect only if revenues increase by $100 million above the prior fiscal year. At the same time, the bill’s amnesty provision would actually bring in additional revenue in 2014. So why are you taking money out of classrooms and cutting funding to provide meals for homebound seniors while you’re sitting on a $350 million budget surplus this year with more coming in?

While your fan club at the Post-Dispatch editorial board marvels at your political gamesmanship, you should know there are real-life consequences to your actions.

Governor, your withhold is unconstitutional and a naked attempt to leverage lawmakers into shying away from an override of your veto of a tax cut that would put more money into the pocket of Missouri’s workforce. The money is there, governor, and this hopeful student – and others like him – are the victims of your ploy. While you play this dangerous game of checkers with the General Assembly, the state’s future hangs in the balance.

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