State House Budget Committee members are not pleased with how Governor Greitens’ (R) administration paid for a new prescription drug monitoring program.
The Governor created the program with an executive order issued in July. It includes a $250,000 no-bid contract with Express Scripts, under which that company provides data to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Department uses that data to try to identify prescription drug abusers.
Legislators on the budget committee are frustrated that the administration created and found a way to pay for that program without their input or approval.
Versailles Republican David Wood said it looks bad for this new program to have been announced at a time when the governor has withheld money from other state programs, and after the legislature refused to fund many things saying the state is in a tight budget year.
“It makes me look like a liar,” said Wood.
The Office of Administration’s budget director, Dan Haug, told legislators the money came from additional federal funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that the state had not anticipated it would get. He said the administration was free to use that money as it saw fit, and used it to address what it sees as a crisis: prescription drug abuse.
Yukon Republican Robert Ross said the administration circumvented the legislature’s authority and used money that could have supported other state needs, including some the legislature voted to pay for but that later saw the governor withhold the funding.
“You are taking that money away from someone else,” said Ross. “Now we could have that discussion of whether it’s more deserving to go to the kids, or whether it’s more deserving to go to the seniors, or whether it’s more deserving to go to those with disabilities, but at the end of the day you are taking that money from one of these other groups.”
Criticism came from both supporters and opponents of prescription drug monitoring with those on both sides saying their problem was not with the program the governor launched, but with how he launched it.
It also came from both political parties.
Springfield Democrat Crystal Quade told Haug it was “extremely frustrating” that CHIP money was used in a way that the legislature had no say in.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) suggested the administration should not move forward with its drug monitoring program, and to instead bring it as a proposal to the legislature during the next budget process. He urged administration officials to halt the transfer of that CHIP money to pay for the program, and to not sign a contract with Express Scripts.
“My suggestion would be to not do that,” said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick called the use of that money, without the legislature’s approval, a “breach of trust.”