State lawmakers have approved the $23 billion state budget one week before the deadline, but what that might mean for the last two weeks of the legislative session is unclear.
Sagging state tax revenue dollars and their impact on the state budget have dominated this session so much so that some suggest that passage of the state budget has let the air out of the balloon.
House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley of Perryville rejects the analogy.
“Oh no, I think everybody is committed to having a solid two weeks,” Tilley says. “My intention is to keep people here and keep them working. We’ve got a lot of difficult issues to deal with and we are going to do our best to deal with them.”
The analogy seems apt to the top Democrat in the House, Paul LeVota of Independence, who questions the productivity of Republicans this session.
“I just remember at the beginning of the session, myself and the Speaker saying the same thing that job creation is our number one priority and we have yet to see that,” LeVota says. “We said that autism insurance was going to be the first bill. We’re still waiting for action on that. So, I don’t know what they want to get done.”
House leadership blames the Senate on the lack of movement of a jobs creation bill. Economic development has had trouble the last couple of years as certain senators complain about tax credits. House Democrats have joined the chorus in calling for tax credit reform, a topic that Governor Nixon has also fixated on the last few weeks of this session.
Legislation to require insurance companies to pay for autism treatment has been a focus of the session this year. The Senate and House have approved separate measures. Ethics legislation has passed the Senate. It has gotten caught in the partisan cross-hairs in the House after Democrats pushed a discharge petition to seize it from a committee and force it on the calendar. That move angered House Republican leaders who say the subjects of the discharge petition will go nowhere. Another vehicle might be found for ethics reform.
Though the budget has been passed, a several pieces of legislation tied to it are pending. Those bills would implement savings expected through the downsizing of state government. They are estimated to save the state nearly $112 million annually, though officials say that number might be a bit inflated.