Our Opinion: Conflict escalates at Capitol

News Tribune editorial

Brace yourself for what may be a long legislative session.

Although this session, like its predecessors, will end in mid-May, it may seem much longer if conflict continues to escalate between Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican legislative majorities.

In this forum on Jan. 9, we discussed the potential perils of a failure to arrive at a consensus revenue estimate for the state budget. The division between the governor and lawmakers marked a departure from previous agreements.

The potential peril has become real conflict.

House Republicans, who believe the governor’s revenue estimate was optimistic — to the tune of $310 million — last week scrapped the governor’s proposed budget. Instead, they will rely on this year’s budget as a starting point.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, said he will empower appropriations panels to increase funding, but not to the levels recommended by Nixon.

Republicans not only are shelving Nixon’s budget, they are challenging the governor’s budget authority.

Miffed that the governor withheld legislative appropriations to leverage his veto of a Republican tax cut, the GOP is proposing curbs on gubernatorial budget powers.

The conflict, however, is not only about money; it also is about personnel.

Republicans have complained that Nixon has been lax in allowing interim directors to continue leading state agencies. They also contend the governor has not been prompt about filling vacancies or expired terms on state boards and commissions.

Last week, Republicans deliberately blocked withdrawal of an appointee, eliminating the appointee’s ability to serve on that panel — the state Conservation Commission — at any time in the future.

“We are trying to restore power to the Legislature,” said Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah. “We are sending a very clear message.”

And, to add insult to injury, a Republican representative has filed a resolution to impeach Nixon.

State Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Parkville, said the governor engaged in willful misconduct when he permitted same-sex couples to be treated as married for tax purposes. The state tax code is linked to the federal government, but Missouri’s Constitution does not recognize same-sex marriage.

In the Jan. 9 editorial, we also observed that upcoming statewide elections have potential to impede bipartisanship this session.

Impede is an understatement; demolish is more accurate.

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