The Missouri House and Senate have both approved approximately $28 billion state operating budgets, and the budget is expected to head to a conference committee in Jefferson City soon.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, says the House budget includes record funding for the foundation formula for K-12 education.
“We (the House) recommended full funding of that. They (the Senate) recommended about 50-and-a-half million dollars less than that. And so we’ll have to figure out how to proceed on that issue,” Fitzpatrick told Capitol reporters Thursday afternoon.
Fitzpatrick emphasizes that one of his top priorities is fully funding the foundation formula. He also says protecting those with developmental disabilities is a top priority.
There are other differences in the budgets approved by the two chambers, including in areas involving prisons and drunk driving enforcement.
Fitzpatrick notes the Senate’s budget includes a $700 pay increase for Missouri corrections officers.
“We’ve got a lot of vacancies in the corrections department, specifically with correctional officers,” Fitzpatrick says. “And part of that is it’s a pretty demanding job and it doesn’t pay a lot.”
Fitzpatrick tells the Capitol Press Corps that the pay raise for corrections officers is a top priority for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown, R-Rolla.
Since the House budget doesn’t include the raise, the issue will have to be resolved in a conference committee, probably next week.
Missouri has 21 prisons.
Fitzpatrick says there’s a difference between the two chambers about sobriety checkpoints.
“The House budget directed the funding for drunk driving enforcement to saturation patrols exclusively, and the Senate’s budget reversed that to allowing checkpoints to being a method of enforcement,” says Fitzpatrick. “And so we’ll have to discuss that in conference too.”
There’s also a difference in the two budgets regarding the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
The House voted 110-41 in March to cut DHSS’ budget by about $1 million and ten employees.
Meramec State Park Assistant Superintendent Tamela Wilson reportedly died from complications of the Bourbon virus in 2017, after being bitten by a tick.
State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, delivered an emotional floor speech in March, blasting DHSS for not providing information on how many Missourians have tested positive for the virus.
Chairman Fitzpatrick told Missourinet Tuesday evening that he may meet this week with Chairman Brown, but it could be early next week.
They’re expected to formulate a recommendation to present to conference.
The Missouri Constitution requires state lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by early May. Lawmakers have extra time this year, because this session is the longest allowed under the Constitution.
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