Governor Eric Greitens, R, has released a $28.7 billion dollar proposed state budget that begins July 1 – a roughly $200 million increase compared to the current year’s budget. Here are some of the key points in the governor’s fiscal year 2019 budget outline:
A move the governor says he did not make lightly was slicing about $70 million out of higher education’s budget for fiscal year 2019. Greitens’ recommendation for Missouri’s colleges and universities represents about a 7.7% drop in state funding compared to the current budget year.
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, a member of the House Budget Committee, tells Missourinet higher education would be taking major hits for two consecutive years. She says the current budget includes a decline of at least $120 million from the previous year. The reductions sparked hundreds of layoffs at Missouri’s institutions of higher learning in 2017.
Under the governor’s budget blueprint, Missouri’s K-12 public schools would get a record $6.1 billion in funding. The figure falls about $48 million short of fully funding elementary and secondary education.
One of the Missouri agriculture community’s top priorities this year is increasing funding for the state’s roads and bridges to help farmers and ranchers move their goods swiftly. Greitens’ proposed budget includes a nearly $163 million increase in infrastructure funding for Missouri’s 34,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges. The plan involves launching a $25 million matching grant fund for local communities to make infrastructure improvements. Greitens also wants to invest $7.6 million in port improvements.
“This is an important investment. It will help our farmers and other businesses to sell Missouri goods around the country and around the world,” he says.
Greitens says a tax proposal he plans to release next week during a statewide tour does not suggest a state fuel tax increase to help fund Missouri’s transportation system. The gas tax has not been increased in more than 20 years – leading to deteriorating infrastructure throughout the state. The Missouri Legislature is considering proposals involving a fuel tax hike.
Another major focus for Missouri agriculture is increasing high-speed internet access in the state’s rural areas. The governor is continuing his efforts to put broadband in Missouri’s rural schools by budgeting $6 million for the initiative.
Greitens wants to reduce Missouri’s social services budget by about $40 million.
His FY19 plan includes $11 billion in Medicaid spending – an increase of about $300 million from the current budget year. Greitens did not elaborate on the details other than to say he thinks reductions could be made through administrative overhead costs.
“The state of Missouri spends more money on healthcare than we do on K-12 education, community colleges, technical colleges, domestic violence shelters, veterans programs, our judicial system, public safety and our correction system combined,” says Greitens.
Rep. Lavender says the rhetoric is that Medicaid costs keep going up every year but what is forgotten is inflation and population growth.
State Worker Pay
Greitens is calling for a roughly $600 pay increase for state employees who make $50,000 or less annually. Missouri, which has the lowest paid state workers in the nation, would give the eligible employees a pay hike if the legislature passes changes this year to the state’s hiring structure. He wants $4.5 million in targeted pay adjustments that aims to offer competitive wages for specific jobs. The governor’s fiscal blueprint also includes not filling 90 vacant state positions from the workforce of about 54,000.
Greitens says an additional $61.2 million would go to state employee healthcare and worker pension contributions would be fully funded with $14.4 million.
More than 14,000 state employees work in Jefferson City, making state government the city’s top employer by a wide margin.
The House Budget Committee will begin working on the fiscal plan bright and early on Wednesday morning.