A conference committee of the House and Senate could begin meeting as early as today to hash out the two chambers’ differences in the budget. The Chairman of the House Budget Committee says the Senate’s budget proposal is not balanced.
Ryan Silvey says an amendment offered by Senator Jim Lembke (R-St. Louis) threw the Senate’s proposal off kilter. “Senator Lembke was very clear … there was only $3 million left in the bank and he was very upset there was only $3 million left on the bottom line, and then by the time he got to House Bill 2011, he offered a $10 million dollar amendment. It’s not rocket science to figure out that three minus ten is negative-seven, so they put it out of balance singlehandedly.”
Silvey says what puts the Senate proposal out of balance is the restoration of a $28 million dollar blind medical subsidy fund, which the House proposed cutting. “It’s been our argument all along that it’s not sustainable, so it’s ironic that issue, which has become such a focal point, is what put the budget out of balance.”
Silvey says the two chambers do agree on at least one point. “Clearly the House made higher education a priority. We’re glad that the Senate concurred with that. The Governor’s $106 million cut to higher education is no longer on the table and won’t be discussed in conference.”
The state Constitution requires the budget be balanced and delivered to the Governor by the end of next week. Silvey is confident that will happen. “We’re going to figure out how to clean up the mess and what we can get in conference, but I’m confident that we’ll have conference committee reports on time by the constitutional deadline and that the Governor will get a balanced budget from the general assembly.”
Silvey will be one of the budget conferees for the House. Speaker Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) says he has a good idea who the others will be. “The vice chair of budget, Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood), then you’re going to see the third person from the Republican side be either Lincoln Hough (R-Springfield) from southwest Missouri or Tom Flanigan (R-Carthage) from southwest Missouri as well. On the Democratic side it will almost always be Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) and Sara Lampe (D-Springfield).”