House members return to debate on the $23 billion state budget this morning, after a quiet day of debate Monday afternoon.
House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, a Republican from Kansas City, predicted a smooth process and says that so far the budget debate has met his expectations.
Silvey’s big beef might not be with House Democrats as much as with Governor Nixon, who he contends is currently withholding money he shouldn’t. The House will likely approve a budget close to $700 million less than the current one. Silvey doesn’t believe Nixon will have to withhold next year.
“Well, obviously when we send the budget out of here, we want it to be balanced and we don’t want the governor to be in a situation to withhold,” Silvey says, “and, as long as we’re hitting our targets, he shouldn’t need to.”
Silvey says the reductions combined with improving state revenue should make the next fiscal year easier.
“The consensus revenue process, where the House, the Senate and the Administration come together to arrive at a number is typically a pretty conservative process,” according to Silvey. “None of us want to be out there overspending by large amounts of money. So, we set a conservative target and think we’re going to hit it.”
The House debated the budget for about three hours Monday afternoon. Representatives offered 18 amendments, most minor changes. A series of amendments approved during House floor debate will shift $3.23 million from technology into services for the developmentally disabled. Money was taken from a computer contract no longer in use and from salaries from vacant positions.
A dispute over $100,000 sparked the sharpest debate. An amendment stripped the funding for a St. Louis-area neighborhood designated as a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. Critics say the removal of the money will hurt efforts to keep the elderly in their homes rather than in more expensive and often state-subsidized institutional care. The amendment sponsor said he saw no need in funding one community in the state.
Rep. Casey Guernsey (R-Bethany) sponsored a series of amendments capping salaires in all state departments at $86,500, the salary of the lowest paid statewide officeholder, the Lt. Governor.
The House likely will complete the budget amendment process today and could send the budget to the Senate by the end of the week.