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8/22/11 Capitol Report

Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2011, at 1:45 PM

From the tornadoes that hit St. Louis, Joplin and Sedalia to the flooding in the southeastern and northwestern parts of the state, Mother Nature has ravaged our state this year with numerous deaths and millions of dollars in damages. Our neighbors and fellow Missourians are struggling and need our assistance.

In response to the need of the many Missouri families who have suffered as a result of the devastating storms, House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, created the Interim Committee on Disaster Recovery. He formed the committee to develop a plan that improves the state's ability to respond to disasters. At the end of July, the committee released its initial recommendations on changes we can make to help communities hurting from the disasters.

The committee's primary recommendation is to call a special session to allow the legislature to discuss the use of the Budget Reserve Fund, also known as the "Rainy Day Fund," to aid disaster victims and their communities. The Budget Reserve Fund was created by a voter-approved constitutional amendment in 2000 to provide the state with cash-flow in times of need, especially in the event of major disasters.

Using the reserves to alleviate the budget shortfall caused by the disasters makes sense. In our every day life, we save for a rainy day and spend that money when there is an emergency. We should do the same for our disaster victims.

We're fortunate that our Budget Reserve Fund currently has a balance of $500 million. While we would prefer to pay for disaster recovery directly from our state budget, the budget difficulties we've had in recent years makes that option difficult. Using some of the money from the Budget Reserve Fund will remove the strain on the budget, and help put our citizens and our communities on the road to recovery.

Using the reserve funding is the right thing to do but it's also important we ensure the proper level of accountability and oversight when using these dollars. The General Assembly is committed to protecting your tax dollars by ensuring the funds are used only for disaster-related costs. To do this, the Disaster Recovery Committee recommended forming a Joint Oversight Committee to monitor every dime spent out of the fund.

Oversight of the money set aside by the governor for economic assistance in Joplin is also important. You may recall, the governor unilaterally created the Jumpstart Joplin program which will provide $22 million in short-term housing recovery assistance and $100 million in low-income housing tax credits.

We should monitor this program to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. We want to lend a helping hand to those Missourians who legitimately need assistance while also protecting your tax dollars from fraud and abuse.

I am proud of the work done by the Interim Committee on Disaster Recovery, and I applaud my fellow members who have worked hard to ensure Missouri's disaster victims receive the help they need. I think the governor should include this issue if he calls for a special session. It's the right thing to do.

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.

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163rd Capitol Report
Rep. Kent Hampton - 163rd District
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