If legislative Republicans are going to get the budget to the governor by their own deadline, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) wants them to do it on his terms.
Legislative Republicans want to get a budget proposal to Governor Jay Nixon (D) quickly enough that he must act on it before the end of the session May 15, so that they would have time to consider overturning any vetoes or restrictions he might make. That would mean getting the budget to Nixon this week.
Schaefer told Missourinet that to him, however, his plan for restructuring and limiting how three state agencies are funded is more important.
“I’d like to get it to the governor early enough that we would have that ability to override him while we’re still in session, but my overriding principle for this budget has been to rein in unsustainable social welfare growth and that’s going to be my top priority,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer’s proposal for those agencies has been a key sticking point in negotiations between the House and the Senate on the budget. It would lump into two pools the money for the departments of Health, Mental Health and Social Services, reduce their appropriation from what the House proposed, and let those agencies decide how to divide money between their programs.
The plan has been a tough sell to the House’s budget leaders, and even to Senate President Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles), who on Thursday said he would not support it. Dempsey based his position on Governor Nixon’s announced opposition to the plan, and concerns over what Nixon might cut if it were sent to him.
Schaefer said of Dempsey’s public comments, “It certainly doesn’t help in the negotiation or to get a budget that has the long-term focus of reining in social welfare growth, but … we’ll see where it goes. I’m going to move forward with what I think is the right thing for the taxpayers of the State of Missouri and hopefully the rest of my colleagues will see it that way as well.”
Schaefer said social welfare programs have grown at a rate of 32-percent, while higher education has grown at a rate of 3-percent and K-12 education has grown at 8-percent.
“We’ve got need for public education, and roads, and public safety, and a lot of other things that frankly we’ve either been flat funding or taking money away from in order to have 32-percent growth in social welfare programs,” said Schaefer. “It simply has to be recalibrated to stop that trend.”
The constitutional deadline for the budget to be on the governor’s desk is the close of legislative business, Friday, May 8.