Government & Politics

Kansas City Republican says vote on labor bills costs him top budget job in Missouri Senate

Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican
Sen. Ryan Silvey, a Kansas City Republican

Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City will not be chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee in 2017.

Silvey, who served as budget committee chairman during his time in the Missouri House and vice chairman of the appropriations committee since 2014, had publicly lobbied for the position for months. The appropriations chairman wields significant influence over the state’s $27 billion budget, and many in the Kansas City area looked forward to a local lawmaker holding the job.

But on Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard announced that Republican Sen. Dan Brown of Rolla would be appropriation chairman. Richard denied the decision had anything to do with politics, but Silvey says that’s not true.

It was his opposition to a pair of bills enacting tougher regulations on labor unions that cost him the job, Silvey said.

“Sen. Richard told me directly,” Silvey said, “that it was because of my votes on right to work and paycheck protection.”

Silvey broke with his party and voted against both bills in recent years. In part because of his opposition, Senate Republicans were never able to muster enough votes to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes.

This year they won’t need a veto-proof majority to approve the bills, as Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens says he’ll sign them. But that fact apparently didn’t improve Silvey’s chances of getting his coveted chairman position.

“I’m still the only person currently in Missouri government that’s ever written a budget before,” Silvey said. “The history of the appropriations chair is that it goes to the vice chair.”

The difference in how much impact the vice chair can have on the budget compared to the chairman is significant, Silvey said. But he says holds no ill will about the decision and hopes to work closely with Sen. Brown during what’s predicted to be a difficult budget year.

“That’s just how this building works,” Silvey said. “I understand that. But I am proud of the way I voted. That’s how my constituents wanted me to vote, and I’d do it the same way again.”

Silvey remains chairman of the Senate commerce, consumer protection, energy and environment committee.

Richard said he believes it is Brown’s turn to chair the committee. Brown served as vice chairman in 2012 but was replaced the next year by Sen. Scott Rupp. When Rupp was appointed to the Public Service Commission in 2014, Silvey was named vice chairman.

“If I wanted to be a bad guy I’d take away parking spots and offices,” he said. “No, this is because it’s Sen. Brown’s turn.”