February 9, 2016

House sends budget proposal to the Senate

The state House has sent its $24.8 billion dollar proposed budget to the Senate. House Democrats remain critical of Republican leadership for rejecting the inclusion of Medicaid expansion.

The House Budget Committee (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House Budget Committee (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Governor Jay Nixon proposed expanding Medicaid using about $890 million dollars of federal money for that expansion, and projected it would generate about $46 million in savings and revenue.

House Democrat leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis City) says by rejecting expansion, Republicans are failing to serve about 300,000 Missourians it would have extended health coverage to.

“We will sit here and pass this budget and tell them that we don’t care about them because we have an ideological difference of opinion. That they should sit and wait and not have access to healthcare. That they should sit and wait until we come up with a better solution so that we don’t have to go back on what we said over the last couple of elections.”

Representative Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) says his party is doing the responsible thing by not accepting the expansion.

“This side cares about people. We want to have healthcare. We want to deliver it, but a program that is admittedly, by the proponents, 25 to 30 percent waste, fraud and abuse … and we’re supposed to just expand it because it’s free money.”

The Senate will likely propose changes to the House budget plan and the two chambers will then hammer out their differences in a conference committee. The legislature must agree on a plan by May 10.

The final total of the budget could still change. $118 million of it is tied to three piece of legislation that would have to be passed and signed by the Governor: $52 million from passage of an amnesty period for people to pay overdue taxes, more than $10 million from a proposed law encouraging collection of sales taxes on online purchases and more than $56 million from the elimination of a tax break for low-income renters.

If any of those don’t become law, money could have to be cut from programs and services in the budget.