JEFFERSON CITY - The Senate's top Republican is proposing legislation that would jeopardize a key piece of Gov. Holden's budget plan.
The Senate Pensions & General Laws Committee on Wednesday heard a bill sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, that would keep the Missouri Gaming Commission from authorizing new types of gambling retroactive to January 1. Kinder said the committee will likely vote on the bill next week.
Kinder's bill would repeal an electronic lottery game, Keno, whcih was approved by the gaming commission in January, one day after Holden's state of the state address. Holden's budget proposal includes revenues from the game in order to fully fund the foundation formula, which determines how much money Missouri schools receive.
"The governor should not be able to order huge expansions of gambling like this and just have the gaming commission institute the big expansion of gambling in our state without legislative approval," Kinder said.
Kinder said the game was quickly implemented.
"This is a big policy change for our state and there has not been a debate on it...I think the legislature ought to deliberate on matters like this so I introduced the bill", he said.
Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, said education is a priority for the governor and legislators from both parties so criticism of the Keno expansion is largely political.
"Kinder is the loyal opposition to an extreme and to a fault," Jacob said. "He is against everything the governor does to accomplish the goal of fully funding the foundation formula."
Jacob said gaming was created for the purpose of funding education and that Keno is a "completely voluntary activity."
"We cannot afford to let one child being left behind and the only way that we can do this, to raise money quickly is by these means," Jacob said. "These are painless, voluntary and anybody standing in the way or being critical is just being critical for the sake of being critical."
Rep. Pat Kelley, R-Lee's Summit, the sponsor for the House version of the bill, said Keno is an addictive activity, where "you can play and lose a lot of money fairly quickly." He said the effects of the bill are more likely to hit low income citizens or those "weakened by alcohol."
"When we have problems there, what we end up having to come back and pay in more state services for that," he said.
Kelley said the general public believes that gambling ought to take care of the needs of education. He said changing the foundation formula should receive more attention.
"Gambling really is a small part of our total money that we put in education," he said. "We really need to restructure the formula so it doesn't require as much money to fully fund it. I believe it's broken and it needs to be fixed."