Just what would be the proper use of about $4 billion of federal stimulus money will be the focus of the budget debate in the House in two weeks, but the leader of the minority party worries it won’t be much of a debate.
The top Democrat in the House, Rep. Paul LeVota (D-Independence), complained to colleagues that Republicans are bypassing a golden opportunity by not fully taking advantage of the federal stimulus money.
"The budgt committee has been struggling with the state budget," LeVota said on the House floor Monday, "Bills have been introduced without use of the federal stimulus money in it. It has severe slashes to many important programs in the state."
The Republican-controlled budget committee has proposed cuts to public health and social services while increasing funding of public schools and sparing colleges from cuts.
House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) said he worries that if the state using federal stimulus money to expand Medicaid and other social services it will struggle to maintain those budgets once the federal money ends.
"That’s where I have heartburn with the expanded spending during times of recession," Icet told the Missourinet. "As we know, that money is limited to, in effect, one time over a 27 month period, but it is still one time. And as the programs continue to grow, where does the state find the general revenue to back fill the hole that’s been created?"
The House works this week, before taking a week off for its annual spring break. The real debate begins when state representatives return to the Capitol and the budget hits the House floor.