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Legislative session ends; still no decision on budget

May 16, 2003
By: Valerie C. Green

State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - As the gavel fell on the last day of the legislative session, Gov. Bob Holden still would not commit to signing or vetoing next year's state budget.

"I will look through all the budget bills and analyze them before making a final decision," Holden said in a post-session announcement. "I need to make sure the budget is indeed balanced and that it protects the vital interest of the state."

The General Assembly sent the spending side of the budget to the governor last Friday, but didn't finish the money-making portion until late in the day this Friday.

Budget director Linda Luberring said her office has finished its analysis of the spending bills, but has not figured out the last-minute revenue packages. Neither the governor nor Luberring set a timeline for making a final decision on the budget.

"I haven't looked at the budget to say what means we are living in," Holden said, keeping open the possiblity to veto the budget and call the legislature back into session to change the budget or to create more revenue.

The Republican leadership criticized Holden's threats of a special session because they promised to give him the same budget they have already passed. They also said it would be costly and unpopular.

"There is no reasonable basis for a special session at this point," said House Speaker Catherine Hanaway. "A special session costs $100,000 a week - that's at least three teachers' salaries a week to get to the same place we are right now."

The governor did make one thing for sure in his post-session speech. He said he will veto three of the bills the Republican legislature passed this year -- a 24-waiting period on abortion, the right of Missourians to carry concealed weapons and a cap on the amount of money victims can receive from a malpractice claim.

"I hope the people of Missouri really look at what their elected officials have done to them this session," Holden said. "If they realize the true impacts of these bills, they will know why I will veto them."

The Republicans have said the lawsuit limit bill was the most important because they claim it will decrease medical malpractice insurance for doctors, make Missouri more business-friendly and create more jobs.

"I hope the governor will think twice on his repeated threats to veto tort reform," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.

Several Republican-backed measures swept through the legislature intended to accomplish what the majority has called its No. 1 priority - job creation.

"This has absolutely, possitively, for sure been a pro-job session," Hanaway said. "We have made steps to stem the tide of job loss and start creating jobs in this state."

In an overall evaluation of the session, Republicans said it was a success despite tough budget times, 90 new freshmen House members and their first time in leadership in a half century.

"This was the toughest, but also the most hard-working session I've seen," Kinder said. "We are proud of our results and we have built a strong foundation to build on for next year."