Ben Wieder is a graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism. He received a bachelor's degree in English from Amherst College and previously worked in book publishing and higher education.
Stories by Benjamin Wieder in 2010 include:
- 5/ 5/2010: Newspaper Story - Revenue numbers improved slightly in April due in a large part to one particularly good day.
- 4/28/2010: Newspaper Story - Lawmakers clear the state's education budgets.
- 4/26/2010: Newspaper Story - Despite more than $400 million in cuts to Nixon's budget recommendation, the state's budget director says more cuts are likely needed.
- 4/14/2010: Newspaper Story - The governor's college tuition freeze clears the legislature.
- 4/12/2010: Newspaper Story - The Senate begins debating budget Wednesday
- 4/ 7/2010: Newspaper Story - MU officials have faith the tuition freeze plan will be upheld, despite a cut proposed Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee
- 3/24/2010: Newspaper Story - The House balanced the budget for next year by cutting education, social services and agriculture
- 3/22/2010: Newspaper Story - House Democrats are preparing a flurry of amendments to the budget as House debate on the budget begins.
- 3/15/2010: Newspaper Story - House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, said Monday that a new revised revenue estimate for next year will likley not come in time for the House to adjust its budget numbers.
- 3/ 8/2010: Newspaper Story - A new database will help track purchases of a key meth ingredient in Missouri but a police officer in a state already using the database says it's not perfect.
- 3/ 3/2010: Newspaper Story - The Senate Education Committee heard a bill Wednesday to promote science, technology, education and math education, but the state wouldn't be obligated to commit any money to the initiative.
- 3/ 2/2010: Newspaper Story - The Missouri Government coulf fall short by a half billion dollars it needs to balance next year's budget
- 2/22/2010: Newspaper Story - A proposed bill would deduct $2 twice a month from the governor's paycheck to play the lottery, with potential winnings helping to shore up the budget.
- 2/22/2010: Newspaper Story - An anticipated extension of federal stabilization funds budgeted by Gov. Jay Nixon for next year wasn't included in a U.S. Senate bill passed Monday.
- 2/17/2010: Newspaper Story - The House Education Appropriations Committee Chair said Wednesday that he is unlikely to recommend cuts to higher education beyond those suggested in the tuition plan reached by Gov. Jay Nixon and higher education officials in November.
- 2/10/2010: Newspaper Story - Icet sent a strongly worded response to U.S. Sen Claire McCaskill urging her to stay out of the Missouri budget process.
- 2/ 8/2010: Newspaper Story - Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are mixed about whether they should review tax credits as part of the appropriations process.
- 2/ 3/2010: Newspaper Story - The largest of Gov. Jay Nixon's latest withholdings won't hold back a public safety radio communication plan.
- 2/ 1/2010: Newspaper Story - A letter sent by Higher Education Commissioner Robert Stein to Missouri's public college officials introducing possible cuts is a step in the right direction, said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, but would be difficult to implement.
- 1/27/2010: Newspaper Story - The Joint Committee on Tax Policy called for a review of tax credit programs to determine the state's return on tax credits and the amount and type of credits still owed by the state.
- 1/25/2010: Newspaper Story - The Senate Appropriations Committee reviewed Gov. Jay Nixon's budget recommendations, and several committee members raised concern about $300 million in funds that depends on federal legislation.
- 1/20/2010: Newspaper Story - Gov. Jay Nixon's top legislative priority is job growth, but his budget recommendation calls for 544 state job cuts
- 1/13/2010: Newspaper Story - The State Auditor said that a tax refund for businesses who file taxes on time cost Missouri $93 million in 2008 and should be repealed.
- 1/12/2010: Newspaper Story - The state of Missouri borrowed $350 million from budget reserves to ease monthly cash-flow difficulties.
Benjamin Wieder's Blog in 2010
So just how long does Gov. Nixon have to sign the budget?
It might depend on when legislators give it to him. The House and Senate approved a budget for next year on Thursday, April 29, eight days before their May 7 deadline to do so. When I spoke with State Budget Director Linda Luebbering this past week she indicated that the Nixon could have as many as 45 days to sign it. How long Nixon has to sign the bill depends on when it is delivered to him. During session, the governor has 15 days to sign legislation, but legislation delivered to him after the session ends has a 45 day signing deadline. Last year, leaders in the House and Senate didn't sign and deliver the budget until May 29, meaning that Nixon didn't get the budget until after session was over. This year, leaders signed the budget Thursday, but it isn't clear whether its been delivered yet. A speedy delivery could mean Nixon has less time this year than last to pore through the budget, which came in $484 million below his budget recommendation in January.
Budget cuts take a bit off the top
The Director of Missouri's Department of Transportation announced Wednesday he was leaving the department to accept a position with a private contracting firm that has received dozens of contracts from the state during his tenure, including one of the largest in department history last year.
Pete Rahn, the departing director, said he had no influence in the awarding of of these contracts.
The same day, Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Jackson County, successfully introduced the last of several amendments to cut funding for state department directors and deputy directors across the board, scaling salaries for directors down to slightly more than $85,000.
Rahn made more than $150,000 last year, which means Silvey's amendment would strip nearly half the funding for his salary. Silvey said these cuts are necessary in tough budget times.
Rahn told MDN the opportunity presented by his new employer was too good to pass up.
"It was the right time for me to move on," he said.
Rahn said the new position will allow him to move to New Mexico, which will allow him to spend more time with his children and grandson.
Speaking Wednesday after Silvey's amendments had been successfully added to the budget, Sara Lampe, D-Springfield, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said she was pleased that Silvey's cuts were "fair and equitable" -- by being spread equally across departments.
She disagreed with Silvey's criticism of the pay of Gov. Jay Nixon's staff, which has five employees, including the governor, slated to make more than $100,000 in the current calendar year, according to the Missouri Accountability Portal.
"We want our governor to have the most qualified people," Lampe said. "Money is often associated with that."
Rahn's departure comes one week after the Department of Higher Education announced it is suspending its search for a new Commissioner of Higher Education pending more information about the likelihood of success of a Nixon proposal to merge the Department of Higher Education with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The Senate is likely to make even deeper cuts to the budget, according to the Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, the Senate's Appropriations Chair, and the budget for the following year is currently expected to have a hole that could be as large as $1 billion.
Are any more department head shakeups in store?
Icet and Nixon aren't singing Kumbaya just yet
Filing a governor's budget recommendation used to be a courtesy extended to Missouri's top executive by House Budget Chairs. Current Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, had gotten away from the tradition in recent years, so his decision to introduce Nixon's budget recommendation last week - as a series of bills - was surprising. It was even more surprising given that Icet has repeatedly chastised Nixon for not collaborating with him, saying as recently as Feb. 10 the governor doesn't return his calls.
I asked Icet Wednesday whether his introduction of Nixon's budget indicated that their relationship had improved. Not quite. "I wouldn't characterize it that way," he said, smiling. Rather, Icet said he introduced Nixon's budget - with instructions to appropriations chairs to cut 5 percent across the board - because of numerous requests from house colleagues on both sides of the aisle, who felt more comfortable working off of Nixon's recommendation in bill form.
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