- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Monday that he’ll allow about $2 million in previously restricted funding to be spent on services including fine arts and gifted students programs, as well as help for people with traumatic brain injuries.

The move averts a confrontation with the GOP-led Legislature, which was attempting to force the Democratic governor to release the money.

Nixon said in a statement he’s allowing the spending because revenue is up 4.2 percent in the first nine months of the fiscal year through March, compared with last year. The governor in October blocked more than $46 million in state spending that lawmakers had budgeted, saying it was because of the loss of $50 million in expected tobacco settlement money.

“The March general revenue report reflects the strong growth we are seeing in our economy, and I’m pleased we are able to make these dollars available,” Nixon said. “Revenues can be especially volatile during tax season, so we will continue to monitor the numbers carefully and take the actions necessary to keep the budget in balance.”

Missouri House members voted last month to release about $1 million of Nixon’s funding cuts for health care and education programs, using new constitutional powers for the first time since voters in 2014 approved them.

At issue was $575,000 in cut funding for the Missouri Scholars and Fine Arts academies, two summer programs for gifted students. Lawmakers also were trying to release $350,000 for a program for rehabilitative services for people with traumatic brain injuries.

But Nixon voluntarily unfroze that money and other funding this week, pre-empting the Legislature from using those new powers to force him to fund those programs.

Republican House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Tom Flanigan in a statement praised Nixon’s release of the funding. He credited the vote by House members to unfreeze some funding as key to pressuring Nixon to act.

“I’m happy to see the governor release funds to these deserving programs, but also extremely thankful that the voters made the wise decision to give the legislature the authority to intervene in times when his withholds are not justified,” Flanigan said.

Nixon also released money for services for foster children and those with asthma, among other programs.

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