by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – What happens when the relationships between the people in government break down? That’s what some politicians on both sides of the aisle say is happening in our state government right now.
It’s nothing new to hear Republicans complain about Democrats and vice versa. Right now, though, both sides say there is another divide. Democratic State Representative Vicki Englund (St. Louis County) explains.
“I think what we’re looking at is relationships between the Legislature and the Governor’s office that have been less than stellar. I think we’re looking at relationships between the Senate and the House that have been less than stellar. I think what we have here is just a very political process over the budget.”
Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R) has more confidence in the relationship between the House and the Senate but he agrees with Englund when it comes to the situation between the Legislature and the Governor. He also believes every Missourian should be concerned about it as well.
“It means that we start experiencing what they are in [Washington] D.C., which is complete gridlock and I can tell you that the only reason we are experiencing that here is because Jay Nixon is governing differently than he did his first four years.”
At issue is how state government spends your money. With votes from both parties, lawmakers overrode spending line item vetoes 47 times this month.
Still, the Governor’s decision to withhold millions in spending that was approved by the Legislature is not setting well with many lawmakers, according to Englund.
“It’s just kind of anyone’s bet why decisions are made. I don’t think we really know what the Governor’s priorities are. We just know that funding is released whenever it’s released.”
Jones agrees with Englund on that point.
“The media, at least in the headlines, did not properly dissect the issue and didn’t explain what it was truly about. What the overrides on the spending items were about were priorities. This money has already been ‘spent’. It’s already been appropriated in the budget.”
“Democrats and Republicans agreed. We passed a true balanced budget. It was $300 million less than what the Governor originally asked for but he got mad at us for a number of reasons.”
Among those, according to Jones, is the override of an income tax cut the Governor vetoes earlier this year.
While members of the two parties still disagree on many things, Jones says they overcame differences to get the job done when it came time to decide the state’s spending plan for the year.
“You ended up with a veto session where Republicans and Democrats joined together to put that money back into the categories that we felt deserved the priority. What were those priorities? We focused on seniors, children, the mentally disabled, veterans…there was no pork.”
That’s not happening when it comes to legislators and the Governor working together. At least that’s the accusation from some lawmakers, both Republican and Democratic. To Representative Englund, the solution is less political and more personal.
“We need to do what I believe we in the House of Representatives have done and that’s start talking to each other. I feel as though we’re not even having those conversations started.
“It’s one thing to have a conversation with someone and, at the end of the day, disagree but when you’re not having those conversations it’s very difficult to support any program or support any strategy that someone – at the last minute – asks for your support about.”
With two years left in Nixon’s term, Englund still hopes the working relationships in Jefferson City will improve.
“I think the opportunity is there. Whether or not he seizes it, that’s up to him.”
On the web:
Vicki Englund: http://www.vickienglund.com/
Tim Jones: http://timwjones.com/