A $23 billion state budget advances in the House, reflecting the lingering effects of the recession.
Lawmakers held basic public school funding steady, but cut school transportation by $55 million. Parents As Teachers was cut in half, down to just over $16 million. The Career Ladder, an incentive pay program for teachers, is virtually eliminated. Colleges will have to absorb seven percent cuts in state appropriations or pass the cuts along to students in increased tuition.
The House approved across-the-board 5% cuts to all state departments as it approved a budget approximately $700 million smaller than the current budget.
Rep. Sara Lampe of Springfield, the Democratic leader on the House Budget Committee, told colleagues Missouri is falling behind.
“This budget falls well short of providing services that are needed by Missourians,” Lampe asserted during the close of the budget amendment process. “The budget falls short, not because of inappropriate decisions made in this year’s budget process, but because there is inadequate revenue to work with.”
The recession greatly reduced state tax revenue; offset the past two couple of budget cycles by federal funding. That federal funding has mostly been spent. Tax revenue is starting to rise again, but not nearly enough to stave off deep cuts once again in state government.
House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, said his committee worked with the hand it was dealt.
“Now, did everybody get everything that they want? Of course not. But we did the best that we could,” Silvey told the House as he closed on the budget bills. “And we did, I think, the best with the resources that we have available.”
Silvey said whether those resources need to be raised is a debate for another day. Some lawmakers suggested an increase in the cigarette tax and action to collect sales taxes now not being collected on internet sales would beef up the state’s bottom line. Silvey said such questions must be answered by the General Assembly as a whole, not by the budget committee.
The House hopes to complete work on the budget this week and hand it over to the Senate.
Budget bills are HB 1 through HB 13.