Somebody’s Gotta Pay for Ferguson: Governor Wants Special Assembly Session

Gov. Jay Nixon (D-Mo.) has called for a special session of the Missouri General Assembly to deal with paying for the Missouri Highway Patrol and National Guard to continue patrolling the streets and protecting the police department in Ferguson, Mo.

Protests followed the shooting death of Michael Brown and the grand jury decision not to file criminal charges in the case, turning into riots that overwhelmed Ferguson police.

The police department itself has also been the subject of what police Chief Tom Jackson described as “credible threats.”

Ferguson was relatively quiet during the Thanksgiving weekend. But protesters announced plans to march 120 miles from Ferguson to the governor’s mansion in Jefferson City, Mo.

Nixon, who was criticized for not responding quickly and forcefully enough to protests and riots in Ferguson and other communities, wants to keep the Guard and Highway Patrol on the streets of communities in the St. Louis area.

But someone is going to have to pay the troops and officers.

Nixon, in a statement issued by his office, said he is worried about having enough money for the Dec. 15 payday. The General Assembly is not scheduled to meet again until Jan. 7.

Nixon said he would announce a date for the special session in the near future.

But Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R), who was term-limited out of office in 2014 and is scheduled to be replaced by Rep. Kirk Mathews (R) in January, told he is not convinced a special session is needed.

“Let’s remember the fiscal year just began on July 1. We’re not even six months into the current fiscal year, and the governor is alleging that … he is about to exhaust all potential funds for all National Guard and emergency services-related personnel for Ferguson,” said Jones.

“We just want to make sure that the governor’s request is valid, that it’s honest, that it’s accurate, before we go and try and do anything with taxpayer dollars.”

Nixon said during a conference call with legislative leaders Nov. 28 he emphasized the importance of taking action quickly to ensure that Guard members are paid on Dec. 15.

“The dedicated men and women of the National Guard and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are playing a critical role in keeping people safe and protecting property in the St. Louis region,” said Nixon. “Time is of the essence. It is vital that we act quickly so that we can fulfill our obligation to the men and women who are so bravely and capably serving their fellow citizens.”

The deal to extend funding for the National Guard and Highway Patrol is not done yet. But he is hopeful.

“This was a productive discussion,” said Nixon regarding the conference call with General Assembly leaders.

“It’s clear these legislators share our commitment to public safety and understand the need for prompt action. I look forward to working with legislators in the coming days to ensure these vital resources are available.”

Nixon has not released an estimate of how much extra money would be requested.

However, a statement released by his office said the Fiscal Year 2015 state budget approved by the legislature included $4 million for National Guard state emergency duty response costs and $3.4 million for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for expenses incurred by state agencies, including the Highway Patrol, in responding to disasters and emergencies between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015.

Nixon said paying National Guard troops and Highway Patrol police is not the only financial problem facing Missouri following the Ferguson rioting.

In addition to obligations that have already been incurred, state officials said other activities such as debris removal could result in additional costs. Exceeding the emergency duty appropriations would also limit the ability of the state to respond to other emergencies that could arise.