The state Senate’s budget committee chairman says welfare reform adopted last year in Missouri has resulted in “pretty substantial” savings that he wants to put into a MODOT program to help pay for roads and bridges.

Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

“There will be savings, I believe, that allow us to take those savings, put them into this fund at MODOT and really divert some of the savings from welfare spending to transportation,” said Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia).

“MODOT has a fund that for years they put money into which allows them to use roughly a 50/50 match with local municipalities. MODOT can put that money on the table and use local money to leverage what are generally smaller projects, like $1 million, $2 million and $3 million projects.”

Schaefer blames welfare spending for funding shortages to some state departments.

“Whether you’re for roads, whether you’re for K-12 education, higher education, mental health, Medicaid is eating up every single dollar of growth that we have,” said Schaefer.

Schaefer said nearly one million Missourians are receiving Medicaid benefits.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) said paying for the state’s infrastructure needs with general revenue is a budget gimmick, and not a long-term solution.  The welfare reforms enacted at the beginning of this year became law in spite of his veto, with the legislature voted to overturn.

State lawmakers have not reached a consensus on how to pay for the state’s infrastructure needs.

Senator Doug Libla (R-Poplar Bluff) proposed again this year a fuel tax increase that would increase the diesel tax by three and one-half cents per gallon and on other fuels by one and one-half cents per gallon.  There are similar proposals in the state House.

Brad Tregnago, KSSZ, contributed to this story.