Nixon Threatens Layoffs over Budget Cuts

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JEFFERSON CITY - In a news conference Wednesday, Gov. Jay Nixon threatened to lay off employees at the state's Department of Revenue should lawmakers put their budget proposal on his desk in its current form.

In a Budget Conference Committee hearing Tuesday, House and Senate members reached an agreement on next year's budget. Among its provisions, the spending bill cuts one-third of the Revenue Department's yearly funding.

The Department of Revenue landed in the spotlight months ago when lawmakers discovered it had been making electronic copies of personal documents, such as birth certificates and conceal carry permits, and storing them in a statewide database.

Lawmakers say they withheld some funding from the department to send a message to the Nixon administration that this process needs to change.

During his press conference, Nixon told reporters the committee's decision to cut funding from the department left him with "no choice" but to order layoffs.

"The unique action taken by the legislature this week would undermine our strong budgetary framework and would introduce unnecessary and dangerous levels of uncertainty."

When pressed for specifics, Nixon refused to answer questions from reporters and left the room.

Spokesperson for the governor, Scott Holste, later confirmed to KOMU8 News these staff reductions would be targeted at the Motor Vehicles Division of the Department of Revenue.

Lawmakers will have the chance to re-evaluate funding the department for the rest of the year when they reconvene in January.

For that reason, Republican Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer said the governor's threat to make layoffs to the Division of Motor Vehicles was "unnecessary."

"There is absolutely no reason for the governor to lay off (staff)," said Schaefer. "If he wants to do that, there's nothing I can do about that, it's not my call."

Lawmakers must send a finalized budget to the governor by Friday.