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Holden's Proposals Likely to Meet Opposition from General Assembly

January 23, 2002
By: Brian Connolly
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - After Gov. Holden outlined proposals to keep Missouri's fiscal ship afloat, it was a matter of minutes until legislators from all sides began taking aim.

During his State of the State address Wednesday, Holden unveiled plans to cut Missouri's core budget by $480 million while boosting revenue through several measures his own party said were certain to meet opposition in the legislature.

Rep. Quincy Troupe, D-St. Louis, a member of the House Budget committee, said he was troubled by Holden's proposed use of gambling money to fund K-12 education.

"Unless you have a 180 degrees on the part of the Republicans and a lot of Democrats, this package is not going to pass, especially the gambling part," Troupe said. "That's almost immoral, I mean that's an illicit relationship between insanity and immorality."

Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, was one Democrat who did defend Holden's plan to fund education with gaming revenue, saying it is "painless on everybody."

"If somebody's got a better plan, let's see it," Jacob said.

The governor's proposals are a challenge to legislators to come up with something better, agreed Sen. John Schneider, R-Florissant.

"(If) You want to do some other things, then show you've got the guts to do what you've got to do," Schneider said.

But Holden said he left the door open for compromise on his proposals.

"I presented a plan of how to do it," Holden said. "If somebody's got a better plan, I'm willing to look at it."

Holden's gaming proposal calls for an increase in riverboat admission fees from $2 to $3, removes the current $500 limit on how much patrons can lose, and introduces a new lottery game.

"That decision about whether Missouri would have gaming or not has already been decided years ago by the citizens of the state of Missouri," Holden said. "I just think the state of Missouri should get a better deal than we're getting today."

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, said that Holden's proposed introduction of a new Keno-style game is a huge expansion of the gambling industry in Missouri.

Kinder, and other GOP leadership, said new fees and taxes on the gaming industry will face scrutiny when they come before the legislature.

"I think we will be the notion advanced by the governor that Missouri can gamble our way to prosperity in the coming years and make K through 12 education that much more dependent on gambling revenues," Kinder said.

Among other measures, Holden proposes using $135 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund and selling the state's tobacco settlement to receive a large one-time payment.

These proposals also hinge on legislative approval that members of Holden's own party find doubtful.

Use of the Rainy Day Fund, started in 1983 for emergency funding needs, requires two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate. The fund has been used to meet revenue shortfalls in the past, particularly during disasters or economic downturns.

Holden said "this is a rainy day for Missouri" and that the fund was set up for tight fiscal situations.

That proposal drew concern from House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway, R-Warson Woods.

"The thing that troubles me the most about raiding the Rainy Day Fund is that we have for the last decade, in the good times, spent every penny," Hanaway said.

Hanaway stated that using the Rainy Day Fund is short-sighted, especially if there was a flood, terrorist attack, or ever-deepening recession in the state.

The state would "have nothing upon which to fall back," she said. Hanaway also chastized use of the tabacco settlement as equally short-sighted.

Rep. Charles Shields, R-St. Joseph, said instead of the short-term solutions offered by Holden, state government should be made more efficient.

"Missouri will bleed to death as the result of a thousand paper cuts," Shields said. "What needs to happen is a systematic reform of government right now, and it requires bold leadership."