Auditor: No direct costs for 2 measures on ballot

Estimates released Monday by the Missouri auditor’s office conclude there would be no direct costs or savings from proposals on this year’s ballot dealing with the selection of appellate judges and restricting health care exchanges.

Missouri lawmakers approved the measures earlier this year and referred them to the ballot. The auditor’s office prepared separate cost summaries for each.

The cost estimates were released Monday after Auditor Tom Schweich instructed staff earlier this spring to stop preparing estimates for ballot initiatives, citing recent court rulings that had clouded the authority of his office to complete the task. The moratorium was to remain in effect until a state appeals court or the Legislature provided specific guidance.

The auditor’s office said that moratorium applies to initiative petitions — in which supporters gather voter signatures to get the measure on the ballot — because the law at issue before the courts is one directing the auditor’s office to develop financial estimates for initiative petitions.

The proposed health exchange law would prohibit bar Missouri from taking steps to create a health insurance exchange without approval from voters or the Legislature. It also would prohibit state departments from taking any federal money to prepare for an online insurance marketplace. The federal health care law gives states until 2014 to set up their own insurance exchanges or have one run by the federal government.

The auditor’s office said it expects no direct financial effects and that indirect costs or savings from enforcement actions, missed federal funding, avoided implementation costs and other issues are unknown.

For the proposal dealing with the selection of judges, the auditor’s office estimated no costs or savings. Deputy Auditor Harry Otto, who oversaw the cost estimate for the measure dealing with judges, said no one had suggested any possible costs and that the summary was a “no-brainer.”

The proposal would amend the Missouri Constitution and allow governors to appoint an additional person to the special state commission that nominates finalists for openings on the state Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The additional appointee would replace the state high court judge who currently serves on the nominating commission. In addition, governors would be given an extra nominee from which to choose in appointing a new judge.

Under Missouri law, the auditor’s office develops cost summaries for measures passed and referred to the ballot by the Legislature — if lawmakers do not develop their own version. A separate law gives the auditor’s office responsibility for developing estimates for initiative petitions.

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