The House-Senate Budget Conference Committee has wrapped up its work, leaving it up to the two chambers whether to approve the fiscal year 2013 spending plan and send it to the Governor.
As part of an agreement that ended a deadlock in the Senate, the Committee proposes dividing $3 million between seven institutions instead of the $2 million that had been allocated just to Southeast Missouri State University. The institutions and the amounts they will get are: Missouri Western State University – $516,559, Southeast Missouri State University – $885,969, Northwest Missouri State University – $515,476, Missouri Southern State University – $346,521, University of Central Missouri – $580,377, Lincoln University – $49,663 and Truman State University – $105,435.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) told the conference committee that under the agreement, the Senate added to veterans home funding legislation a requirement that the Joint Education Committee develop a funding formula for higher education by 2015.
The Committee agreed to propose restoring $25 million to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund, which the House had recommended cutting in its original budget proposal. The Committee added language to treat it like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) children’s Medicaid program, limiting the program to those earning up to three times the poverty level and requiring copays or premiums for some income levels.
This answered the concerns of House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), who didn’t like that it was open to people of all income levels. “The only means test that they employed was do they make too much to qualify for Medicaid? If so, you’re on the program. Now they’ll have to obviously means test those that are on the program and if you make over 300 percent, which by the way is over $57,000 a year for a family of three, if you’re making more than that then you’re not going to qualify for the program.”
In a statement, a Governor’s Office praises the restoration of money to the fund but opposes the proposed limitations. A Jay Nixon spokesman says, “the attempt to place additional limitations on eligibility through the budget process does not change existing law – and is invalid. We will ensure that this program continues to serve all 2,800 needy, blind Missourians who depend on it.”
The Committee’s plan would language that would have pulled funding from the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Politics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, but left a section that says institutions participating in political activity can not receive state funding.
Schaefer says that just reflects current law, “which is that no money going to higher education should be used for political activity. Whether it’s the Sue Shear Institute or anything else, if it’s public money that’s being used through public education to fund political activity, that already was basically against the law anyway.”
The Committee proposed restoring $3 million to the tourism budget, leaving it about $200,000 below what it was before the Senate cut it in its original budget proposal. The Committee also settled on $750 thousand for regional autism projects. The House had originally proposed $1 million dollars for those, with the Senate having proposed no funding.
Earlier in the week its members opted to go with the House’s proposal that all state workers making under $70,000 a year would receive a 2 percent raise beginning July 1.
Its proposal now goes back to the House and Senate for consideration. Per the Constitution, the budget must be delivered to the Governor by Friday.