Senate Minority Leader Joe Keaveny (D-St. Louis) doesn’t think the first half of the legislative session has been productive in the Missouri Senate.
“Things are tenuous right now. A couple of bills that my caucus doesn’t care a whole lot for have passed. Also, SJR 39 was a very traumatic experience for the Senate,” said Keaveny.
That resolution would ask voters whether religious organizations and businesses should be protected from penalties for refusing to offer goods and services for same-sex marriages. Democrats filibustered it for more than a day and a half. The measure passed in the Senate and is in the House.
Keaveny said the budget will be one of the main priorities during the second half of the session. He wants a larger investment in the state budget for mental health and higher education.
“I know there was a $1 million cut from some of the neighborhood mental health centers. I think we need to reinstate that,” said Keaveny.
A mental health liaison program was created in Missouri a couple of years ago and Senate Keaveny thinks it should be strengthened.
“There’s an absolute shortage of beds for mental health patients. Some of these hospitals have mental health patients sleeping in corridors,” said Keaveny.
“So often, people with mental health just don’t know where to turn. The liaisons are providing a very important service.”
Keaveny also calls the cuts to the University of Missouri and some of the other state colleges and universities ‘drastic’.
“I think the cuts are shortsighted. I think we need stop and think about what we’re doing. The end result is going to be an increase in tuition and would make college education less affordable for students or put the students further in debt,” said Keaveny.
The Missouri House has passed a budget that cuts $7.6 million from Mizzou’s administration. Supporters of the cuts argue that students will not be impacted by the cuts to the University of Missouri.
Governor Jay Nixon’s budget request calls for a nearly $56 million boost in higher education performance funding. The House reduced that increase to 2% for all colleges and universities except Mizzou, and that would only be funded if revenue increases as much as Nixon predicts.
The Senate is expected to work on the budget when lawmakers return from spring break.