The Missouri Supreme Court is examining whether the governor has wide discretion to cut spending, even when revenues aren't running short.
Judges on Wednesday quizzed attorneys representing Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and Republican Auditor Tom Schweich in a case focused on whether Nixon exceeded his powers by announcing about $170 million in budget cuts in June 2011.
Nixon relied on a constitutional provision giving governors authority to "control the rate" by which budget items are expended.
Schweich contends the section allows governors only to spread out payments to agencies. To make cuts, Schweich contends the governor must rely on a separate provision requiring that revenues are below expectations.
Nixon contends the auditor has no power to challenge the governor's policy decisions in court.