Jefferson City. (AP File Photo)
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Gov. Jay Nixon in a budget battle with State Auditor Tom Schweich.
The court ruled Tuesday that Schweich did not have legal standing to challenge about $170 million of spending cuts announced by Nixon in June 2011.
The cuts to education and other services were based partly on the expectation that Missouri would incur millions of dollars of unbudgeted costs from a deadly tornado that hit Joplin a month earlier. As it turns out, the Joplin costs came in lower than expected.
The Supreme Court said Schweich's challenge to the governor's budget-cutting authority amounted to a pre-audit of state spending. The court says the auditor does not have such powers.
Gov. Nixon released the following statement in response to the ruling:
"In unanimously rejecting this lawsuit, the Missouri Supreme Court has confirmed once again that Missouri governors have the authority and the responsibility to rein in spending and keep the budget in balance - and over the past four and a half years, that is exactly what we have done," Gov. Nixon said. "Even during tough economic times, the executive authority provided by our Constitution - and reaffirmed again by the Court today - has allowed us to maintain strict fiscal discipline and protect Missouri's perfect AAA credit rating. At a time of continued fiscal turmoil in Washington, this strong constitutional framework is vital to keeping our budget in balance and our economy moving forward."
Schweich released the following statement after the ruling:
"The Supreme Court effectively ruled that we filed our suit too soon. The Court dismissed our suit without prejudice to re-file. That leaves us with two options: do a post audit of the Governor's office now and file suit, or work with the Legislature to restrict the ability of the Governor to make withholds when there exists adequate revenues to fully fund the budget. We will spend the next several days determining which option to pursue, or whether to pursue both options."
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