The Missouri House voted Wednesday afternoon to give final approval to a $34.9 billion state operating budget. GOP leaders say it’s a budget that’s about $146 million less than the current budget.

Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem John Wiemann, R-O’Fallon, (left) talks with House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, on the House floor in Jefferson City on April 27, 2020 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

Most House members wore masks during the debate, which got heated during a discussion about Medicaid expansion. Due to COVID-19 concerns, there were just three people watching debate in the Capitol’s public fourth-floor galleries.

State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, spoke several times on the House floor, criticizing legislative Republicans for approving $450 million in tax cuts in recent years. She says that money should have been used for education and other essential services.

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, tells the House that the growing Medicaid budget has impacted higher education and other essential programs. He says Medicaid continues to grow.

Chairman Smith says the budget also includes $11 million for institutional staff stipends for corrections officers at the Missouri Department of Corrections, as well as $10 million for county jail reimbursements. Smith had hoped for $15 million, but notes COVID-19 impacted that.

COVID-19 has impacted the budget, and it’s impacted pay for state employees as well. Smith tells Missourinet the budget does not include money for pay raises for state employees.

More than 14,000 state employees work in Jefferson City, making state government the town’s largest employer.

Today’s debate also featured a heated discussion on the Missouri House floor, about the issue of Medicaid expansion.

Representative Lavender tells the House that states that have expanded Medicaid receive $500 more per person, than states like Missouri. But State Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, argued against it, warning about the federal debt and the federal deficit.

Richey blasted House Democrats on the floor, for arguing for Medicaid expansion. He says it’s immoral and that Democrats want to deficit-spend.

The conversation got more heated when State Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, and Rep. Richey spoke over each other during a heated floor debate.

“I dare you to go back to your constituents and say we don’t need no stinking federal dollars,” Mitten told Richey.

Chairman Smith also spoke against Medicaid expansion.

The budget now heads to the Missouri Senate, and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, tells Missourinet he expects the Senate Appropriations Committee to work through the weekend on the budget.

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