- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday released about $21.5 million he previously withheld for state veterans homes, domestic violence shelters and other programs following a national settlement with credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s.

The release comes amid repeated lawmaker criticism of the Democratic governor for keeping money from those programs, he says because of lagging state revenue.

Nixon made the announcement on the additional funding less than an hour after Attorney General Chris Koster and Secretary of State Jason Kander announced that Missouri would receive $21.5 million from a legal settlement with Standard & Poor’s.

The settlement, which included the U.S. Justice Department and 18 other states, concerned allegations that Standard & Poor’s knowingly inflated ratings of risky mortgage investments that helped trigger that 2008 financial crisis.

Nixon said in a written statement that he “appreciates the hard work” by Koster and Kander, “which will help provide needed funding for a number of key priorities, including programs for seniors, veterans and local law enforcement.”

The state expects to receive the money from the settlement by March 6.

The funding released Tuesday by Nixon is a part of the roughly $700 million that had remained on hold since the 2015 fiscal year began last July.

About $8 million of that would go to the state’s seven veteran homes, $4.7 million to the University of Missouri School of Medicine’s campus in Springfield, $3.5 million to the Missouri Technology Corp. to aid start-up high-tech businesses and $1.5 million to grants for local cybercrimes task forces aimed at reducing Internet sex crimes.

Among other things, about $500,000 would go to domestic violence shelters for services to victims of sexual assault.

But the money comes six months late for many of the programs that will get a portion of it, Republican Sen. Kurt Schaefer of Columbia said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Schaefer, a lead budget writer and one of the most vocal critics of Nixon’s withholds of state money, told lawmakers that Nixon hasn’t asked for money to continue some of the programs next fiscal year.

That could create confusion amid agencies unsure of what to expect financially in the future, Schaefer said.

“Where it goes from here, I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s a good first step.”

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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