By Alisa Nelson and Jason Taylor
The Missouri Senate has passed a $27 billion state budget, moving the spending plan into negotiating mode between a panel of House and Senate members.
The measure was approved with relative ease over a couple of days after rancor seized the chamber late last week and fiery speeches opened floor sessions to begin the first two sessions this week.
The chamber labored longest over whether to fully fund the state’s education foundation formula, ultimately approving a $45 million increase in K-12 funding – the same amount passed by the House.
House Budget Committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) says the Senate’s decision to fully fund the formula could complicate negotiations with the House.
Fitzpatrick says the House was able to fully fund 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.
The chambers will also have to reconcile differences in money for higher education. The Senate’s position would reduce the University of Missouri System’s funding by 6.5% reduction and other four-year universities a 9% cut. The House wants to reduce the University of Missouri System’s budget by 9%.
Wednesday, several moves by Senator Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) to secure funding for women’s health care services, including “referrals for abortion”, were rejected.
The Senate has voted in favor of a statewide expansion of a managed care system in the Department of Social Services’ budget. The plan would be used to provide services to 750,000 Medicaid recipients beginning May 1. The health care portion of the budget would cost more than $9.5 billion. Under managed care, private companies are given a monthly fee for each recipient.
A vote engineered by Senator Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) against the managed care expansion was defeated 10-22.
The House and Senate must work out a deal about in-home and nursing home care for about 60,000 of Missouri’s elderly and disabled. Governor Greitens proposed reducing that amount by more than $52 million.
The House rejected that recommendation and instead chose to eliminate a tax credit benefiting about 100,000 elderly renters. The House’s position would have saved the state about $50 million. The Senate disagrees with that move.
The chambers also disagreed about whether to use state funding for DWI checkpoints. House GOP members think taxpayer money for such practices should be barred. Senators voted to remove that language.
During Senate debate on the budget, Democrat Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City secured $3 million to buyout homes near the St. Louis area’s West Lake landfill, where radioactive waste is stored. Chappelle-Nadal also has a bill in the legislature to further fund the project.
Five members of budget committees in both the House and Senate will now negotiate spending differences between the chambers. After they come to an agreement, the House will vote on the finished product, followed by the Senate.
If the chambers fail to meet the May 5 deadline to get the budget to the governor, a special session of the legislature will be called.