What a difference a year makes. State lawmakers have approved a $20.8 billion state budget two days prior to the deadline, readily agreeing to a budget a bit more than 8.5% larger than the current state budget. Last year’s budget debate featured harsh clashes between Republicans who called for deep budget cuts, especially to Medicaid, and Democrats who resisted them. This year’s debate gave way to minor skirmishes between the two parties as lawmakers argued about where best to spend the increased revenue an improved state economy produced. Lawmakers added $20 million to the Medicaid budget, restoring such services as wheelchair accessories and adding eyeglass coverage. Providers also will receive better reimbursement rates. Democrats, though, argue that the budget should have done more to restore the 90,000 Missourians cut from Medicaid rolls last year. Education gets a boost in this budget. Public schools will receive a $128 million increase in their basic funding formula in an education budget that tops $5 billion for the first time. Colleges and universities will receive two percent more next year, but still will fall short of their highest appropriations, made in Fiscal Year 2002. The Missouri Department of Transportation receives a record $2.6 billion, benefitting from a growth in both state and federal road construction funds. State employees will receive a 4% raise, with employees in specialty fields, such as medical, law enforcement and corrections receiving even larger pay hikes. The budget now heads to Governor Blunt who praises it as a budget based on sound fiscal management. The governor says the gains the state has made this year would not have been made without the responsible and in some cases difficult decisions made last year.The operating budget is contained in HB 1001 through HB 1013