State lawmakers approved a $23 billion state budget a week ahead of the deadline, but still have work left if they want all the numbers in the budget to add up.
This week normally is set aside for budget work. House Majority Floor Leader Steven Tilley of Perryville says that with the budget behind them, House members will consider the rebooting Missouri or downsizing state government bills, most of which come from the Senate.
Tilley says he doesn’t have a feel for how the votes might fall on the various bills.
“I mean, if you’ve got a district where it’s filled with state employees you can see how cutting two state holidays would be kind of difficult, because at the end of the day we do have a responsibility to represent our districts,” Tilley tells the Missourinet. “So, I just think it’s one of those issues that you bring up to the floor and you have a full, fair honest discussion on it, then light the board up and see how it goes.”
The legislature hasn’t acted in time to eliminate Truman Birthday holiday Friday. The Nixon Administration had already banked the savings, so it announced a 5-cent cut in the state mileage reimbursement to make up the difference.
The administration projects that the elimination of two non-federal state holidays, Lincoln’s Birthday in February and Truman’s Birthday in May, will save $3 million, because those working in Corrections or other 24-hour positions, such as a State Highway Patrol trooper, will no longer be paid overtime for working those days. That proposal also assumes that state workers will not be given the day after Thanksgiving off, normally given by the governor each year. The proposal is actually contained in a House bill, HB 1677, which left the House as a bill requiring the governor to proclaim the first Friday in March, “Dress in Blue for Colon Cancer Awareness Day,” but was amended in the Senate to add the holiday elimination language.
Those savings are mild compared to the tens of millions the administration expects to save by changing various provisions associated with Medicaid, from changes in how the state handles reimbursements to a shift in the assessment and collection of provider taxes.
SB 1057 proposes merging the State Water Patrol with the State Highway Patrol, expected to reap more than $2 million in savings. Gov. Nixon actually touted such a move prior to the budget crisis and has used the drastic drop in state revenue as an incentive to push the proposal. A proposed sweep of lapsed money from 23 separate funds as outlined in SB 1000 had been projected to take in $27 million dollars, but those projections have been revised downward.
Another bill, SB 714, proposes changes to the state retirement system expected to save more than $10 million annually.
Total savings from about a dozen separate bills was once projected at close to $112 million. That estimate has been revised. It doesn’t appear that the savings will reach that amount.
Tilley says he’s willing to allocate a lot of floor time to debating the merits of the bills.
“I would say they are going to be a priority over the next week or two,” Tilley says. “If we get them to the calendar, we’re going to make sure we give them a fair debate.”
The session ends May 14th.