Money is trickling into Missouri that’s likely to lead to a tug of war between lawmakers and Governor Eric Greitens over how to use it in a tight budget.
Greitens announced yesterday that $80 million in new funding is coming in now that Congress has renewed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2023.
The Medicaid program, which covers kids from low-income families, includes an increased federal match with the recent reauthorization that lasts for two years. Since it won’t affect eligibility for CHIP benefits, states can use the extra money for other purposes.
Republican Senator Dan Brown of Rolla, who chairs the Appropriations Committee that oversees the state budget, told reporters Thursday the $80 million dollars can be used for the current fiscal year and the next such 12-month period which starts in July. That sum will decrease by half to $40 million in 2020.
Brown says Governor Greitens, a Republican, and the GOP dominated legislature may not see eye-to-eye on how to use the extra money. “The governor released things that he wants to do with this money,” said Brown. “We will work with him. But we also have plans for this money, and things that we need to do.”
Among Greitens priorities is boosting funding for foster care. He proposed adding $11.2 in his budget plan for the next fiscal year.
He also touted the fact that his proposal increases spending on education for K-12 schools by $87.5 million on top of the current year’s outlay for a total of $6.1 billion, which is a record for elementary and secondary education.
But the sum still falls $48.5 million short of fully funding the foundation formula after the state reached that threshold for the first-time last year under the current formula.
Senator Brown considers education to be a program in “crisis mode”. He also views higher education – colleges and universities – the same way.
“I view higher education funding as a crisis in the state of Missouri,” Brown said. “We have to act now, or parents and the students are going to pay for it. So, it’s time that we step up.”
Brown told reporters in a regular Thursday news conference that his committee has already found money by delaying certain funding streams or eliminating some expenditures when there was agreement they weren’t necessary.
He also said other Senators agree with him that sacrifices need to be made in order to send money to programs that are in “crisis mode”, such as transportation, K-12, and higher education.
“A lot of my colleagues have given up personal projects, things that they really want to get done for their district and for the entire state of Missouri because they agree with me on some of these that we see that we really have to step up and spend the money or abrogate our responsibility. And I don’t think we’re likely to do that.”
The Senate passed a bill sponsored by Brown Thursday to boost financing for nursing homes, which he also considers to be in crisis mode. On the Senate floor, he said recently that some nursing homes could close if the state doesn’t boost reimbursement rates for the facilities.
While talking to reporters, Brown acknowledged he doesn’t normally sponsor legislation that will cost the state a large chunk of money.
According to calculations by a non-partisan legislative body, the measure to increase nursing home funding will cost the state $35.5 million in 2019, almost $60 million in 2020 and more than $82 million in 2021. The bill still has to clear the House before moving to the governor.
Other programs mentioned by Brown that need immediate funding are water projects in northwest Missouri, where wells can’t be drilled, and in southwest Missouri in Joplin. He said the $80 million in extra money from CHIP will likely go into the state’s General Revenue fund from which lawmakers allocate spending.
According to Dave Dillon with the Missouri Hospital Association, the money is coming through Enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for CHIP. He says the rate is set for states by a federal formula that looks at economics and demographics.
However, Congress has, in the past adjusted FMAP for programs, or to deliver funds to states because the system is typically an easy way to transfer federal funds to the states. Dillon says some of the stimulus money during the 2008 recession was delivered through FMAP.