Saying that “insiders, special interests and lobbyists have made a mess” of our budget, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (R) has proposed a $27 billion state operating budget, which includes $572 million in cuts.
While Greitens’ proposed budget reduces the state workforce by 188 positions, Acting State Budget Director Dan Haug does not expect anyone to actually lose their jobs.
“The positions that we reduced in this budget are through vacancies and attrition and those kind of things,” Haug told the Capitol Press Corps Thursday in Jefferson City.
Missouri has about 55,000 state employees, including more than 14,000 who work in the Jefferson City area.
Greitens’ proposed budget does not include a pay raise for state employees, but keeps health care costs to the employees flat.
Greitens says Missouri’s budget is “suffering from reduced revenue due to poor economic growth”, and says “Obamacare” (The Affordable Care Act) has caused the state’s health care expenses to soar.
For example, Missouri’s fringe benefits for state employees will cost about $1 billion, under the Governor’s proposed budget. That’s up from about $947 million last year.
Fringe benefits include employee retirement, health care and other benefits.
Despite agriculture being Missouri’s largest industry, Greitens’ proposed budget would reduce funding for the state Department of Agriculture.
His proposed budget reduces the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s budget from about $53 million to about $40.4 million. Reporters questioned Haug about those proposed reductions.
“I think the biggest part of that would be a reduction in the payments for the biodiesel producers,” Haug says. “I think that makes up a significant part of it, and then a lot of it is also some of the (budget) restrictions that were put in place this year just carried forward.”
Greitens also proposes cutting the Missouri State Fair’s budget by about $500,000, from $5.2 million to about $4.7 million.
MDA Director Chris Chinn testified last week at the Capitol that agriculture is an $88 billion industry in Missouri, employing about 400,000 people statewide.
Governor Greitens’ proposed budget also includes increases in several key areas, including for vulnerable children and public safety.
Additional funding for programs that support children with special needs is contained in Greitens’ proposed budget.
“$13 million to cover the costs of providing special education services to students with disabilities through the High Need Fund,” says Haug. “$12.4 million to serve additional children and reduce the caseload standard for special education teachers.”
Missouri’s High Need Fund provides instruction, tuition, technology and transportation to students who have disabilities.
Greitens’ proposed budget also includes $11 million in additional funding to care for children who have been abused or neglected and removed from their homes.
Greitens says he wants Missouri to be a state where every citizen feels that they are safe and protected.
Haug says Greitens’ budget includes several key public safety initiatives.
“Additional funding in public safety is $250,000 to establish a Blue Alert system,” Haug says. “$1 million to the state Crime Lab to decrease backload there.”
A Blue Alert system is designed to help the state locate anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer.
Haug says the proposed budget also includes $1 million to equip the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Drug and Crime Control Division, and $690,000 to provide TASERs and body armor to Missouri state troopers.
The Legislature must approve a balanced budget by early May, according to the Missouri Constitution.