By Jason Taylor and Alisa Nelson
Missouri lawmakers approved on Thursday a $27 billion state budget. The House’s position has been to save about $50 million by ending a tax credit for low-income renters. The Senate did not ultimately take that same position.
Instead, the Senate has sent back to the House a proposal that would allow a review of unused state money to try and shore up $35 million dollars and prevent cuts to in-home and nursing home care funding cuts to elderly and disabled Missourians.
Contention grew between Rep. Deb Lavender (D-Kirkwood) and Rep. Kevin Engler (R-Farmington) when Lavender made a motion to try and prevent those cuts. Engler lashed out at Lavender for voting against other legislation which makes cuts elsewhere so that the nursing money can be restored.
“You’ve got the guts to stand up here today and rob the budget,” said Engler.
Budget committee chair Fitzpatrick called Lavender’s move a motion “to send us into a special session”, which would use more taxpayer money to extend the legislative session for the year. Lavender’s motion was voted down.
Rep. Michael Butler (D-St. Louis) objects to the notion that one low income senior program would be funded only by stripping money from another program which serves the same group.
“It’s totally irresponsible for us to not only make a bill that creates a senior services protection fund by taking money from seniors, as well as creating a bill that needs to be passed in order for those seniors to get those types of services” said Butler.
Rep. Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) opposes budget language stating no money would be allocated to health providers that perform abortions. She objected to its inclusion of providers that refer women to other facilities for the procedure.
“By using this ridiculously broad definition of abortion services that includes referrals, the current versions of House Bills 10 and 11 may cut access to health care providers throughout the state – hospitals, federally qualified centers, OBGYN’s and clinics” said Morgan.
In the lower chamber, some Democrats protested a 6.5% cut to higher education, which proved to be one of the more contentious issues between Republican Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick of Shell Knob and the minority party.
Democrat Kip Kendrick of Columbia said “institutions are doing all they can to cut the fat, and at this point we’re cutting muscle”.
The spending plan passed by the legislature includes:
*K through 12 public schools receiving $3.4 billion, which fully funds an education formula for the first time,
*Restoring $25 million in proposed cuts to K-12 school busing,
*A 6.6% cut to Missouri’s colleges and universities,
*The Missouri State Employees Retirement System, or MOSERS, received $45 million in additional funding, and
*A $1 million buyout program for those living near a radioactive waste site in St. Louis County
If signed by Governor Greitens, the budget would also require the Department of Natural Resources to tell the General Assembly, in writing, within 60 days of buying land intended to be used as a state park.
Budget committee members in both chambers had complained that they had less time to formulate a spending plan after Governor Greitens issued his proposal later in the legislative session than normal.