Senators Concerned About Effects of Spending Restrictions

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JEFFERSON CITY - State senators from both parties said Monday evening they're unsure about a bill that would restrict how quickly the state can increase spending.

HJR 43, which passed the House in a party line vote Thursday morning and is now in the Senate, would set a referendum for November on a constitutional amendment that would restrict the rate at which appropriations could increase each year. The bill defines that rate as the sum of inflation, percent change in Missouri's population, and 1.5% of the previous fiscal year's total state general revenue collections.

Sen. Chuck Purgason, R-Caulfield, said he agrees with the bill's concept, but he fears such an amendment would cause a vast increase in the number and size of tax credits, which could be used to go around the amendment's provisions. He said the legislature should instead focus on tax credit reform.

"The bill has loopholes you could drive a truck through," he said.

Sen. Joseph Keaveny, D-St. Louis, said the bill is unnecessary because Missouri already requires a balanced budget and does a good job of keeping spending under control. He said the amendment would take fiscal responsibility out of the hands of the legislature.