The Missouri Senate’s decision to fully fund the education formula in the state budget could complicate negotiations with the House.
That’s according to House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob), who fully backed his chamber’s successful effort to do the same.
“It’s a good thing that we’re funding the formula” said Fitzpatrick. “That was something I wanted to do. I said it was my number one priority when I was named budget chairman. And now it’s going to happen.”
The problem, says Fitzpatrick, is that the Senate didn’t fully finance education until the budget hit the chamber’s floor. In committee, it opted to not fully fund schools. It chose to use the extra money instead on other departments.
Fitzpatrick says the House was able to provide for schools by leaving other departments with less. He claims the only way to reconcile the budget between the two chambers, and keep the education formula fully funded, will be for the Senate to find places to slice dollars.
“A lot of the things that the Senate added to the budget were financed with the savings that the Senate generated by not fully funding the formula. So, it really makes it to where the options…are going to be having to cut a lot of the other things that the Senate added in order to do the formula.”
According to Fitzpatrick, the Senate added about $50 million to the budget that the House had crafted. In years past, the two sides would have been brought together by siphoning money earmarked for Medicaid.
Fitzpatrick says following that path has not turned out well. “Two years ago, we allowed the Senate to cut a bunch of money out of the Medicaid budget to make their budget appear balanced. And then guess what happened. We had a $300 million supplemental in Medicaid.”
That meant $300 million had to be withheld from other departments to cover the Medicaid overage.
When Governor Greitens released his budget in early February, he, the House and the Senate agreed to set aside $100 million to help cover unanticipated expenses or a spike in Medicaid costs.
The House, under Fitzpatrick, then chose to set aside an additional $98.5 million from projected Medicaid spending for the next fiscal year. The resulting $198.5 million total would then be available in case Medicaid costs exceed projections or there are unplanned expenses.
In negotiations with the Senate, says Fitzpatrick says he’ll insist on a figure between $100 and $198.5 be set aside.
As far as the funding for education, Governor Greitens budget had cut $45 million from the foundation formula and $36 million from school transportation.
The House replenished all of that money, while trimming spending in other places so as to not exceed the dollar amount in the spending plan laid out by Greitens.
The House and Senate will next go into a conference committee to negotiate their differences. Each chamber will then vote on those results. A finished agreement between the House and Senate will be sent to the governor on or before May 5th.
If they fail to meet that deadline, a special session of the legislature will be called.