Initial approval of next year’s $21-billion state budget has been given in the House as Republicans and Democrats retrace the battle lines drawn during last year’s budget debate. Not much changed during two days of debate. The budget largely reflects the spending plan approved by Republicans in committee. And Democrats say nothing has changed in spending priorities, though both Governor Blunt and Republicans legislative leaders have made much of an improved fiscal outlook. Representative Margaret Donnelly (D-St. Louis) tells colleagues the loud and clear message is that even if the state has the money, the legislature won’t restore the cuts it made to Medicaid last year. Democrats criticize Republicans for not using better budget numbers to restore the 100,000 Missourians cut from Medicaid. Republican Charles Portwood of Ballwin counters that the budget contains a revamped program for disabled workers, more money for health care centers and more for Medicaid reimbursement. He agrees it cuts off those with assets, such as homes, cars and savings, but says the state shouldn’t provide them with health care. The House hopes to give final passage to the budget today and hand it off to the Senate before leaving on Spring break.
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