A $21 billion spending plan for state programs and services has been approved by the House and sent to the Senate, the final legislation approved by the House before the legislature leaves on its one-week Spring break. The budget approved in the House increases state spending by nearly 10% over the current budget. Democrats repeat the criticism that they have hammered against Republicans all week that despite an improved economy, the majority party refuses to restore the cuts made to Medicaid. Democrat Margaret Donnelly of St. Louis attacks the proposed budget, saying it should do more to undo the damage done last year. Last year, the legislature cut Medicaid for more than 90,000 people, raised costs on 16,000 and reduced services for 350,000. Republicans, such as House Committee Chairman Allen Icet of Wildwood, respond that the budget approved in the House would increase Medicaid spending by $263 million. The biggest increase in Medicaid spending increased fees paid to nursing homes, doctors, health clinics and in-home care providers. Democrats contend more could be done, because of the improvement in the state budget. Democrats say Republicans cannot brag on one hand about the improvement in the state budget and on the other hand reject pleas to restore the cuts they justified because of a tight budget a year ago. Republicans respond that the old Medicaid program would have bankrupt the state if it hadn’t been reined in. The budget debate will shift to the Senate when lawmakers return to the Capitol in a week.
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