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Blunt vetoes $36 million from budget

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Blunt vetoes $36 million from budget

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

    DAILY NEWS CLIPS

    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 1 of 76

Southeast Missouri schools prepare for

    drop in state funding

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    By Alaina Busch ~ Southeast Missourian

    Area school districts are evaluating open positions as part of their efforts to brace for the possibility of lower state support. As the state budget process begins, Gov. Jay Nixon's proposal could result in lower-than-expected state aid for school districts.

    The governor's budget proposal provides one-sixth of the funding increase called for in the state's financing formula, the biggest source of state funding for schools. Under the formula, K-12 schools are set to receive a $106 million increase in funding. Nixon recommended an $18 million increase to the $3 billion in formula funding. Dr. Jim Welker, superintendent of the Cape Girardeau School District, said he is concerned but it is too early to know how individual districts will be affected.

    "I think at this point though we really don't have the information about exactly what that means in terms of total dollars," Welker said.

    The Cape Girardeau School District budgeted $6.4 million for the funding formula for the for its current $43 million budget. The district receives 18 percent of its revenue from the state.

    In November, district officials held budget forums for employees to discuss cost-cutting measures in anticipation of lower funding. Welker said the district is evaluating capital expenses and open positions. "We'll have to scrutinize very carefully whether or not we'll have to fill those positions," he said. The district used the majority of its federal stabilization money to purchase technology, eliminating some capital expenses, he said. Proceeding with a five-year plan to increase teacher salaries is also in question, he said. "Every time you have the possibility of losing a dollar, sure it does concern us," said Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendent of the Jackson School District.

    He said the formula money, $11.9 million in Jackson, mostly goes toward personnel costs, the biggest expense for both districts. Jackson's $42.5 million budget includes receiving 37 percent of its revenue from the state. In recent years, the district has looked at ways to lower energy usage, Anderson said. Open positions will also be evaluated but he said the district is already a lean operation.

    "We run a lesser expenditure per child than a lot of districts in the state," he said.

    District officials will have a better idea of how state funding will look in May before they are set to finalize their own budgets, he said.

    "We don't know how the legislature is going to deal with the proposal," he said.

    State Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, released a statement Friday voicing concerns about Nixon's budget proposal.

    "The governor has placed tax credits before education, and I believe those priorities are backwards," Crowell said. "The greatest economic development plan is to invest in a student's education, which means the governor should be focused on fully funding the foundation formula and full funding of higher education instead of tax credits and tax diversions to big businesses."

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 2 of 76

    Crowell filed legislation that would subject tax credits to the appropriation process. Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti told the Associated Press that schools do not face the cuts that higher education does. Nixon decreased higher education funding by 5.2 percent. In exchange for preventing larger cutbacks, Nixon made an agreement with university presidents to freeze tuition.

    "Getting more money is outside of the norm right now," Cardetti said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 3 of 76

    Parties at odds after State of the State JEFFERSON CITY NEWS TRIBUNE By Bob Watson

     The applause and standing ovations barely were finished before the political war of words began over Gov. Jay Nixon‘s 49-minute State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate last week an

    address that also was broadcast around the state and carried on the Internet.

     Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder‘s 12-minute GOP response questioned several of Nixon‘s proposals and challenged the

    way Nixon‘s administration ran state government during its first year.

     And just over an hour after Kinder finished, the state Democratic Party had released its own questions about Kinder‘s comments.

     Debating jobs

     The governor emphasized jobs and the need to create more of them. He cited several examples of companies that moved to Missouri or expanded existing operations.

     ―We ramped up financial incentives for businesses that offered good jobs and health insurance,‖ he said. ―And we focused state resources on targeted, fast-track training programs to prepare a workforce ready to step into those jobs.‖

     Nixon noted Missouri‘s doing better than many other states, as the national economy continues to falter.

     ―Missouri unemployment ran under the national average, but was still too high,‖ he said.

     Kinder also focused on the state‘s jobs situation.

     ―Just days ago we found out that Missouri lost another 2,600 jobs in December, adding to the thousands of Missourians who have lost their jobs since Gov. Nixon took office,‖ he said.

     The Economic Development Department‘s news releases for the past year show Missouri lost a total of 61,300 nonfarm jobs in 2009, as the state‘s unemployment rate climbed from 7.3 percent in December 2008 to a

    high of 9.6 percent last month, and the national rate hit a high of 10.2 percent in October.

     An e-mail from Missouri Republican Party spokesman Jonathon Prouty said: ―Obviously Nixon‘s plans have not worked, because as Lt. Gov. Kinder noted, nearly 62,000 Missourians have lost their jobs since Nixon took office‖ on Jan. 12, 2009.

     The February 2009 DED news release, reporting last January‘s employment numbers, noted that 11,500 jobs were cut in that month, alone.

     And, the news release said: ―Since October (2008), employment has decreased by 32,500, accounting for threequarters of the over-the-year (since January 2008) decrease of 44,500.‖

     Debating budget issues

     Nixon said the national economic troubles had forced deeper-than-expected revenue declines, ―the biggest

    one-year drop in Missouri history,‖ forcing administrators to make mid-year cuts.

     ―We balanced the budget without raising taxes,‖ the governor said in his Wednesday speech.

     But Kinder said Missouri‘s budget troubles came from ―the governor‘s failure to act swiftly to address the budget crisis.‖

     As for Nixon‘s proposed budget for the business year that begins July 1, Kinder and other Republicans complain it isn‘t balanced as the state Constitution requires.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 4 of 76

     For example, Senate Majority Leader Kevin Engler, RFarmington, told constituents in his weekly ―Capitol Report‖ newsletter: ―His plan ... relies heavily on one-time federal bailout dollars, and ... is based on an

    assumption that the state may get extended stimulus funds, while he has already relied on stimulus funds and raided the Rainy Day Fund to cash flow the current year‘s budget.‖

     At Wednesday‘s pre-speech briefing for reporters, state Budget Director Linda Luebbering acknowledged Congress still has not OK‘d an expected six-month extension of the federal stimulus program.

     ―We have been told by several different people that it will happen,‖ she told a reporter Friday. ―If it doesn‘t, we‘ll be ready to make more cuts.‖

     The state Constitution requires the governor to give lawmakers ―a complete and itemized (budget) plan of proposed expenditures of the state,‖ along with ―the estimated available revenues‖ and recommendations for making sure the state will take in enough money ―to meet the expenditures.‖

     Several Mid-Missouri lawmakers said Thursday it‘s too soon to complain about an unbalanced budget, since lawmakers generally rewrite the governor‘s proposals.

     Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Hobart said the charge by Engler, Kinder and other Republicans that Nixon used ―Rainy Day Fund‖ money is wrong.

     Nixon‘s administration — like previous administrations has borrowed from the separate ―Budget Reserve

    Fund‖ to meet the state‘s cash-flow requirements, he said, noting those transfers ―were repaid by May 15 of the

    same fiscal year as required by law.‖

     Spending stimulus money

     In his speech Wednesday, Kinder said Nixon ―has already spent over 80 percent‖ of the federal stimulus money.

     GOP spokesman Prouty added: ―The Missouri Accountability Portal shows that 80 percent of stimulus funds sent to Missouri have been spent.‖

     But Democratic Party spokesman Hobart countered: ―Under federal law, Missouri has three years to expend Stabilization Funds,‖ with 11 percent spent in the last part of the 2008-09 business year, 53 percent slated to be

    spent in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, leaving the final 36 percent to be spent in the budget proposal Nixon announced Wednesday.

     Governor‘s office spending

     Also on Wednesday night, Kinder complained Nixon‘s office hasn‘t faced cuts the way other state agencies have had to adjust budgets.

     ―He has not made the same sacrifices he is demanding from others,‖ Kinder said.

     Luebbering said the 2010-11 budget proposal does not make more cuts in the governor‘s office, although she said there were cuts in Nixon‘s office this year.

     ―The governor‘s office needs more resources to manage during these very challenging times,‖ she explained.

    ―Keeping that fiscal management intact is critical at this time.‖

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 5 of 76

     January 24, 2010

    Kinder camp denies involvement in robo

    calls against Democratic senator

    SPRINGFIELD NEWS-LEADER By Chad Livengood

    Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's top political consultant said Sunday neither he nor Kinder were directly involved in a robo call campaign targeting Democratic state Sen. Frank Barnitz.

    Residents in Barnitz's south-central Missouri district received automated phone calls last week from a political action committee that spent tens of thousands in 2008 helping Kinder get re-elected about Barnitz sponsoring the

    nomination of former state Rep. Bill Ransdall to the State Tax Commission.

    Consultant David Barklage said he couldn't take credit for the robo calls, but that he was aware they were going out. "Did I execute the robo calls? No. But I certainly was aware of them," Barklage told the News-Leader. In November, Nixon appointed Ransdall to the State Tax Commission on a temporary basis. His appointment now needs the approval of the Republican-controlled Missouri Senate.

    The robo calls sought to tie Barnitz to the State Tax Commission's recent controversial decision to change farmland valuation in 2011, resulting in a 29 percent increase in taxable value on the state's most productive land and about a 25 percent decrease in valuation on less productive land. Ransdall voted for the re-valuation plan. But Barnitz, a farmer, said he opposes the tax commission's plan and has vowed to "yes" vote for a resolution in the Senate rejecting the tax commission's re-valuation plan.

    Better Leadership for Missouri PAC, a continuing committee, was basically dormant for most of 2009 and reported having just $667.38 in cash on hand at the end of June.

    In the past, Better Leader for Missouri has paid Barklage's firm, Strategic Communications Group, for public relations and political strategy work, but Barklage said Sunday the committee is no longer a client.

    Barklage, who runs the Senate Republican majority's campaign committee, said the treasurer of the Better Leadership for Missouri committee informed him of the calls. Kinder had no prior knowledge of the calls targeting Barnitz until it was detailed in today's Springfield News-Leader, Barklage said.

    He said Better Leadership for Missouri paid for expenses to help Kinder get re-elected in 2008 and also spent money helping other Republican candidates.

    "It's a PAC set up to support Republican leadership. Peter was one of them," Barklage said.

    Barnitz, a moderate Democrat from a heavily Republican district, will be heavily targeted this year by conservatives in his re-election effort.

    "He is definitely a top target," Barklage said.

    Related Article:

    January 24, 2010

    Political Notebook: State Tax Commission nominee, Frank

    Barnitz under fire

    Group linked to Kinder sending out robo calls.

    Chad Livengood

    A political action committee with ties to Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's campaign apparatus is sending robo calls to constituents of state Sen. Frank Barnitz, targeting Barnitz for supporting Gov. Jay Nixon's nominee to the State Tax Commission.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 6 of 76

    Better Leadership for Missouri, a continuing committee that helped finance Kinder's re-election in 2008, began sending robo calls to Barnitz's constituents Wednesday evening saying the Dent County Democrat is supporting a Nixon nominee who favors raising taxes on farmers.

    Nixon's nomination of former state Rep. Bill Ransdall of Waynesville to the State Tax Commission is pending confirmation in the Missouri Senate. As a constituent from his district, Barnitz is sponsoring Ransdall's nomination.

    Ransdall began a temporary appointment to the tax commission in November.

    In December, Ransdall and the other two tax commissioners approved a plan to raise valuation (and taxes) on the state's most productive land by 29 percent and lower the taxable valuation of the least productive ground nearly 25 percent.

    Republican lawmakers have vowed to reject the tax commission's valuation plan -- scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 -- with resolutions from both chambers.

    On Thursday, state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said on the Senate floor he will block Ransdall's confirmation because Ransdall voted to raise taxes on some farmers.

    Nixon, a Democrat, has said he doesn't support the tax commission plan. But with Ransdall, the tax commission is now controlled by two Democrats and one Republican -- raising the question whether Nixon should have done something to stop the tax increase (and decrease) on farmland.

    Barnitz, a farmer from Lake Spring, said he also opposes the tax commission's land re-valuation plan. "I'm in favor of the resolution to stop the increase," said Barnitz, who is up for re-election this year. Kinder's campaign used the Better Leadership for Missouri committee in 2008 to route tens of thousands of dollars in over-the-limit campaign contributions that had to be returned after the Supreme Court tossed out a law lifting contribution limits in 2007.

    Kinder, of course, is viewed as Nixon's likely Republican opponent in 2012, should the governor choose to run for re-election.

    For the past six months, Better Leadership for Missouri has reported limited activity in Missouri Ethics Commission reports.

    At the end of June, the committee had just $667 in cash on hand. Expenses for the robo calls against Barnitz will likely be reported in April after the first quarter ends.

    The committee's treasurer, Chris Holloway of Lee's Summit, did not return a phone call seeking comment. In the past, the committee has hired Kinder's political consultant, David Barklage, who also could not be reached for comment.

    The Missouri Republican Party was unaware of the robo calls until the News-Leader inquired about them, a spokesman said.

    But MRP Executive Director Lloyd Smith said Barnitz should expect to be targeted by conservatives this election year.

    "No one should be surprised that Frank Barnitz's conservative credentials are being challenged," Smith said in a statement. "Barnitz is out of touch with his district, and we expect that conservative groups will continue raising concerns about his record."

    But Barnitz said "it's a mile long" stretch for the PAC tied to Kinder to assert he's supporting a tax increase by carrying Ransdall's nomination on Nixon's behalf.

    "But they're proven in the past that they don't have to tell the truth," Barnitz said of robo calls.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

    MISSOURI SENATE COMMUNICATIONS

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    Collected/Archived for Monday, January 25, 2010 -- Page 7 of 76

‘Stacked taxes’ bill advances

    By St. Joseph News-Press

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    A House committee has advanced a bill that could end the uncertainty over certain sales taxes in St. Joseph and other municipalities.

    House Bill 1442, sponsored by state Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, would specify in state law that cities such as St. Joseph could continue collecting ―stacked taxes‖ that had previously gained voter approval. The law follows a

    court ruling in 2008 that the city of Iberia, Mo., near Lake of the Ozarks, had illegally stacked two capital improvement taxes.

    The ruling had cities, which previously relied on the Department of Revenue‘s assurance that it was legal to pass

    multiple taxes of the same type, worried that they would have to stop collecting and repay tax revenue. St. Joseph city officials feared the city would be forced to give back $33.25 million it has collected on separate general sales taxes of 1 cent and one-half cent.

    The House Special Standing Committee on General Laws passed HB 1442 out of committee last week on a 13-0 vote. The bill says cities such as St. Joseph could continue to collect stacked sales taxes and that the combined rate of sales taxes adopted under city capital improvement programs cannot exceed 1 percent. Those testifying in favor of the bill last week included the Joplin city attorney and a representative of the St. Joseph Area Legislative Coalition.

    Senate race spending

    Candidates for Missouri legislative races don‘t file for election until Feb. 23, but the money is starting to roll in.

    State Rep. Dr. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has raised $83,015 in his campaign for the 34th District Senate seat, which covers Buchanan and Platte counties. That‘s more than three times as much state Rep. Martin Rucker, D-

    St. Joseph, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat.

    ―I think it‘s going pretty much as expected. The session takes up most of my time now,‖ Dr. Schaaf said. ―I feel

    like I‘m on track.‖

    Mr. Rucker reported that he has raised $25,675, including almost $23,000 during the last quarter. The amounts were based on electronic filings made with the Missouri Ethics Commission on Jan. 15.

    ―Whether they are helping me call voters or knock on doors, I appreciate all they have done,‖ Mr. Rucker said of his supporters. ―This year I will need them more than ever before, and the response in the community has been very positive. Now, it is time to continue to build momentum for the campaign throughout 2010.‖

    The only other candidate to file a campaign finance report was state Rep. Jason Brown, R-Platte City. He reported raising $77,000 but has announced he is now running for the county commission.

    In the Feb. 2 special election to fill the District 27 House seat in St. Joseph, Democrat Pat Conway has raised $1,875 and Republican Jason Gregory filed paperwork indicating his contributions have not exceeded $500. Medical marijuana

    State Rep. Dr. Rob Schaaf reinforced his maverick reputation when he signed on to a bill that would legalize medical marijuana.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

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    Dr. Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, said House Bill 1670 has no chance of passing, but he signed on to send a message. Dr. Schaaf said he believes President Barack Obama has already circumvented the law by approving a lax drug enforcement approach in states with medical marijuana laws.

    He also said, as a physician who has been involved in hospice care, the chemicals in marijuana are cheap and effective in dealing with pain.

    ―Legalizing medical marijuana is not the same as legalizing marijuana for recreational usage,‖ he told St. Joe Now.

    Dr. Schaaf added that he might not vote for the bill.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

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    Prescribing a solution: Law enforcement, law makers propose requiring prescription for pseudoephedrine products to curb meth production

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    By Erin Hevern ~ Southeast Missourian

    An increase in the incidents of manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine in 2009 has convinced the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force that lawmakers need to do more than move pseudoephedrine, a key component in making the drug, behind the pharmacy counter.

    After a drop in the number of meth labs seized from 2005 to 2008, people seeking pseudoephedrine seemed to find a way around the law and began buying the legal amount at multiple pharmacies, according to Kevin Glaser, director of the drug task force.

    Glaser said they seized 146 meth labs in 2009, a dramatic increase from the 42 labs busted in 2008. Task force officers also saw a jump in the incidents of methamphetamine possession and distribution -- from 85 cases in 2008 to 348 in 2009.

    A more strict change to the law may bring the numbers back down, said Glaser, and keep them down. A bill filed by Rep. Scott Lipke, R-Jackson, would require a doctor's prescription to purchase medicines containing pseudoephedrine, which is most commonly used to treat ear and sinus infections. The bill is aimed to keep the decongestant out of the hands of individuals who plan to abuse it, yet still available to those who need it. "We've got to do something that stops the sale of that product," Glaser said. "We'd like to see the law go statewide, that is what's going to be most effective."

    Vic Heisserer, a relief pharmacist for Horst Pharmacy of Jackson, said the law, if passed, may not be handy for some, but it would be in the public's best interest in the long run. The law as it is written now isn't working to counter the use of methamphetamine, he said.

    "The person that's buying the medicine, they write down their license number themselves. They can give a false name," Heisserer said. "I do know that it's being abused."

    While a more rigid law may inconvenience some, Lipke has said anyone that needs the medicine will not be denied it.

    Glaser said much of the opposition for the bill stems from individuals concerned they'll have to see a doctor each time they need a cold remedy containing pseudoephedrine.

    "If you're a person that absolutely has to have it, a doctor could write the prescription and it's good for a year," Glaser said. "We're trying to take the burden off the law-abiding people who are using it for legitimate purposes." If people are willing to use Claritin or Zyrtec, medicines containing decongestants that don't have the qualities for making meth and available without a prescription, a change in the law may be more adaptable. "There's just so many other products on the market that will do the same thing as far as your cold is concerned that don't have the qualities for making methamphetamines," Glaser said. "Why even mess with this one?" The Kennett, Mo., and Poplar Bluff, Mo., city councils have already declared their support of the passage of the bill by passing a city ordinance making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription in their respective communities.

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

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    And while city leaders in Jackson have had general conversations on the issue, Mayor Barbara Lohr said they haven't begun to discuss it as a group. She said the city is supporting Lipke in his efforts to pass the bill that includes the entire state of Missouri.

    "That way it would be consistent throughout the state," Lohr said. "I think that it would help the entire state ... in that it would reduce the number of meth labs in our area."

    The city of Cape Girardeau has also not formally discussed the issue, according to city manager Scott Meyer. City leaders are working through various other issues, but that's not an indication of whether they'll address the issue of pseudoephedrine, Meyer said.

    "What I know about the issue is, we do have a meth problem and whatever can be done to help that I think are appropriate acts," Meyer said. "Statewide is a more comprehensive way to look at it."

     News Clips online: www.senate.mo.gov/snc Subscribe via: newsroom@senate.mo.gov Missouri Senate online: www.senate.mo.gov Senate Communications online: www.senate.mo.gov/newsroom

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