House Budget Committee unhappy with how Greitens administration created drug monitoring program

State House Budget Committee members are not pleased with how Governor Greitens’ (R) administration paid for a new prescription drug monitoring program.

The Missouri House Budget Committee (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

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.

Budget Director for the Greitens’ Administration, Dan Haug, took the brunt of criticism from House Budget Committee members over how the administration paid to create a prescription drug monitoring program. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“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.

“I hope that as you all continue to come up with these new ideas to address this crisis that you bring them to use before you start moving money around,” said Quade.

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.”

House Budget Committee members frustrated by Capitol metal detectors

Members of the state House Budget Committee have told the Greitens Administration they aren’t pleased with how it paid to keep operating metal detectors in the State Capitol.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The state legislature passed a budget that approved paying for additional police officers to patrol the Capitol while the metal detectors, which were installed shortly before Eric Greitens (R) became governor, would be removed.  Greitens’ administration has paid contract workers to continue operating those detectors using money out of a fund for building maintenance.

Lawmakers on the budget committee expressed frustration not only at how the administration is paying for those contract workers, but also at Greitens’ continued support for using metal detectors.

“If the administration had come out at the beginning of the year and said, ‘We think these metal detectors need to be here,’ and there was clear communication that that was the intent of the administration, I think it’s far more likely that there would have been an appropriation for the manning of the metal detectors,” said Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob).  “The public communication that was out there was that the administration was not in favor of metal detectors.”

Representative Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, was critical of the administration’s decision to use money from the maintenance fund to pay to staff the detectors – a step that was done without the legislature knowing about it or approving it.

“We need to be in the loop,” said Conway.

Not all budget committee members were as upset with the administration’s actions.

Kansas City Democrat Greg Razer asked Greitens’ Office of Administration Commissioner, Sarah Steelman, what would happen if the detectors are removed and an incident occurs at the Capitol.

Sarah Steelman is the Commissioner of the Office of Administration, under the administration of Governor Eric Grietens. She testified to the House Budget Committee that the administration wants to keep metal detectors in the Capitol. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications).

“The governor works here, the legislature works here, and anyone who’s here during the springtime knows that there are hundreds of rambunctious, loud fourth graders that roam this hall … if we remove the metal detectors and, God forbid, something horrible happens in the halls of this building and one of those kids are hurt, can we look that parent in the eye and say we did everything we could to protect your kid?” asked Razer.

“No, I don’t think we can,” said Steelman.

Fitzpatrick said he is, “somewhat indifferent,” about the metal detectors being in place, but he remains frustrated about the administration funding the staffing of those without the legislature’s approval.

He did say he does not want to see Capitol Police officers staffing those detectors after the legislature approved money for more officers to be hired so the Capitol halls would be patrolled.

“I’m going to have a major problem with that,” said Fitzpatrick.