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The Missouri House of Representatives has a new chairman of its budget committee. KSMU's Missy Shelton spoke with Representative Allen Icet about his job as chairman.
Shelton: Republican Representative Allen Icet takes over as chairman of the budget committee after Republican Brad Lager resigned last month.
Last month, Lager called for a spending freeze to keep the budget in line without raising taxes.
Later the same day Lager called for the spending freeze, Lager released a printed statement indicating he was resigning...According to his statement, House Speaker Rod Jetton wanted to take the state's budget in a direction that Lager could not support.
A steering committee recommended Allen Icet become the new budget chairman and the House Speaker agreed.
Icet announced his new position Thursday...I spoke with him by phone.
Why are you interested in what is obviously a tough job?
Icet: Missouri has had a some difficult budget years and unfortunately the future will be similar. The reason for the job...each of us in the legislature have different backgrounds. Mine tends to be along the budget line, dealing with numbers. I want to use that experience to do the best job I can.
Shelton: Of course, Brad Lager was asked to resign after he voiced a different opinion than that held by Speaker Jetton. Are you concerned you'll be restricted because of what happened to Brad Lager in terms of what you're able to say public and the way you approach your job as budget chairman?
Icet: You need to be able to voice your opinion to the Speaker. I know the last thing the Speaker wants is a "yes man." I need to be able to speak in a forthright manner with the Speaker and I feel comfortable doing that.
Shelton: Can you give us a sneak preview of what we can expect with the budget process? The last session, Medicaid took center stage, along with the education foundation formula.
Icet: For the 2007 fiscal year, I expect it to be as tight and a process of laying out the priorities and deciding where to spend state money. In 07, we will have some new items. You referred to the foundation formula. The initial pricetag on that will be over 100 million dollars in general revenue. That's what I think will drive us.
Shelton: You're chairing a committee that has a majority of Republicans but also has Democratic members. Are you willing to work with your Democratic colleagues to at least get to a budget they can be somewhat comfortable with?
Icet: Yes. I believe the responsibility for the budget chairman is not to look out for my district but you have to take the best interest of the entire state into account. Part of that is working with Democrats, Republicans, working with the Senate and the governor. The budget is not an event, it's a process where information is refined. I want to make this a bi-partisan effort.
Shelton: I've been speaking with Republican Representative Allen Icet.