JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday blocked millions of dollars of planned Medicaid spending and bonding authority in a move to balance the budget during the final weeks of this term.
The outgoing Democratic governor restricted $51 million of budgeted spending, including nearly $43 million for the Medicaid health care program and nearly $9 million in bonding authority.
In both cases, Nixon said the budgeted spending wasn't needed because of savings achieved by his administration.
He said declining tax revenues contributed to the need for the cuts. In total, Nixon this fiscal year has cut more than $200 million in spending approved by lawmakers.
In Missouri, the governor has the power to block spending of budgeted money in order to balance the state's roughly $27 billion budget. It's sometimes called "withholding."
"I'm trying to make the hard and proper decisions that allow the balance sheet to stay strong, that allow us to keep our credit rating (and) that allow us to move forward," Nixon said during a news conference.
Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick has called for Nixon to cut spending before his successor, Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, takes over Jan. 9. Fitzpatrick told The Associated Press on Wednesday that roughly $150 million more in additional cuts are needed on top of Nixon's most recent withholdings.
He said the rest of the fiscal year and the next will be challenging unless there's a significant change in revenue growth or expected costs for Medicaid.
Nixon said it will be up to Greitens to decide whether additional cuts are necessary to balance the budget.
The governor also countered concerns about the state of the budget. He said there's been a "dramatic overstatement of the challenge."
"If I don't show great deference to the overspending Legislature's view as to what is the proper way to fiscally manage the state, so be it," Nixon said.
Nixon on Wednesday simultaneously announced that he was releasing $4 million that he had previously restricted, including nearly $2 million for building renovations at Missouri State University and $1 million in transportation aid for K-12 schools.