Nixon denounces funding cuts for driver’s license agency

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon warned on Wednesday that he will lay off employees and cut services in the vehicle licensing division in response to a legislative budget plan that gives the agency money to operate for only two-thirds of the next fiscal year.

The Democratic governor called reporters to his Capitol office to denounce the partial-year funding plan as “irresponsible” and “unprecedented” and a threat to Missouri’s financial stability.

“They leave me no choice: I will reduce staff and services accordingly — including making the necessary layoffs — effective July 1,” when the budget for the 2014 fiscal year kicks in, Nixon said while reading a written statement. He took no questions.

Nixon’s remarks came a day after a panel of House and Senate members agreed to a budget plan that would impose a one-third cut in funding for the motor vehicle division in the Department of Revenue and for a state contract that finances the printing of driver’s licenses.

Republican budget leaders said the rest of the money could be provided when lawmakers reconvene next January, but only if Nixon’s administration agrees to stop making electronic copies of birth certificates and other personal documents submitted by applicants for driver’s licenses and state identification cards.

Republicans contend the document copying infringes on privacy rights, though Nixon’s administration has defended it as an anti-fraud tool.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer said Wednesday that he is undeterred by Nixon’s warning and plans to press forward with the budget plan. The Missouri Constitution requires the House and Senate to give final approval to a budget by 6 p.m. Friday.

Schaefer said “it was pretty reasonable” of lawmakers to propose only eight months of funding for an agency that has not complied with legislative requests to halt the new licensing procedures that were implemented late last year. He said no layoffs are necessary.