Selected representatives and senators will meet in conference this week to work out differences between the two chambers’ budget proposals. House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream (R-Kirkwood) says he doesn’t expect any major hangups between the two sides.
He says the two budget proposals do have some wide differences in education.
“[The Senate has] $33-million for the State Historical Society Building in House Bill 3. That’s something that [the House] didn’t have in there, so that’s a big difference.”
The legislature based its budget on a lower revenue estimate than the Governor and Stream proposed a new surplus revenue fund, from which money could be pulled to pay for things in his budget but not in the legislature’s. Stream says with revenue coming in slower than both sides estimated, items funded out of the surplus fund are looking like less of a priority.
“Who knows? The last two months we could see a boom and we’ll go above that, but we’ve left that Surplus Revenue Fund in there. The Senate has used it, we obviously used it, so it will stay in there for the rest of this budget process.”
The House and the Governor proposed adding 4.6 million-dollars to the state’s children’s division aimed at improving its handling of child abuse reports. The Senate Budget Committee removed that proposed increase. The money would bolster the salaries of child abuse investigators, give them I-Pads to increase efficiency in dealing with reports, and to forgive their student loan debt in an effort to keep good investigators from leaving.
Stream thinks all or some of it will be restored.
“I think there’s a good likelihood that the House position will prevail on those areas but I don’t want to say for sure … some or all of that will stay.”
The House spent a great deal of time debating the use of $6-million out of the surplus revenue fund to pay for the state to take over the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. The Senate doesn’t include that item in its budget proposal.
Stream says it doesn’t seem likely the federal government would relinquish control of that site anyway.
“We may resolve that in a different way than even the House and Senate position,” Stream says. “We can take one of the two positions or somewhere in between or some of the language differences too.”
The budget conference committee meets beginning Tuesday morning. The budget is due on the Governor’s desk by Friday.