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State politics turned strange during budget debate

February 22, 2001
By: Lauren Shepherd
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB 15, http://www.mdn.org/2001/XGR/VOTES/VOTE994.HTM

JEFFERSON CITY - Political debate took a strange turn in Missouri's statehouse Thursday.

Democrats blamed Republicans for Democrats not supporting the Democratic governor.

Even the House speaker, a Democrat, blamed Republicans for his own vote against the governor's solution to the budget shortfall.

Gov. Bob Holden "knows the way I stand and he knows I'm sticking to my guns that this has to be a bipartisan effort or it's going back to the table," said House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa. Kreider voted no with 14 other Democrats and 72 Republicans on the governor's plan to use $127 million of tobacco settlement money owed to the state to help balance the budget. Only one Republican voted yes. The plan was part of an amendment to the supplemental budget bill.

Although the governor's plan easily could have passed if all the Democrats had supported Holden, Kreider said he needed Republican support.

"It's a different era," he said. "The greatest golfer in the world is black and the greatest rap singer in the world is white. It's the year 2001," Kreider said at a news conference after the House vote.

"We have a Republican Senate, we have close numbers, and we have a Democratic governor and we're going to have to work together or else this isn't going to work," he added.

Kreider said he told Holden bipartisanship was a necessity in getting the plan passed since even some Democrats disagreed with the governor's plan.

"Some of my members in the majority party did not want to go this route," he said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted a bipartisan vote."

Kreider said he asked the governor for his help in ensuring bipartisan support, but warned Holden that Republicans would not support the bill when it became apparent that the votes were not there.

Earlier in the day, Holden held a hastily-called and delayed news conference to urge support for his plan.

Holden said he wanted bipartisan support, but surrounded himself with Democratic senators.

He dodged repeated questions as to why Republican senators were not present at his news conference.

Holden said that using tobacco money was the only way to solve the budget problem.

"I don't have the luxury of time," Holden said. "I want to address this issue now."

Like Kreider, Holden pointed to Republicans for his loss of some Democratic support.

"They (Democratic legislator) don't want to be out there by themselves," Holden said. "They want some bipartisan support."

Calling it an issue "beyond partisan politics," Holden added that he has been willing to work with the Republican party on their initiatives and has "offered them many olive branches," effectively asking them to extend their own peace-offering on his idea.

House Minority Leader Rep. Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, said Holden did ask House Republicans to "get the budget in balance."

"But we told him that we couldn't support using tobacco settlement money," she said, adding that she urged the governor to find other alternatives for fixing the budget shortfall.

While Democratic leaders lamented Holden's inability to bring Republicans aboard once the budget amendment failed, they also followed his lead and blamed Republicans for not offering "fiscally responsible" alternatives and for bringing partisanship into the issue.

"It must be something political or partisan," Kreider said. "I am very disappointed."