The Missouri Legislature will have a big job now that lawmakers are back to work – dealing with a projected state budget shortfall of about $700 million. Members have been on break for about one month due to the coronavirus threatening the state.
The Missouri House of Representatives is considering a revised state budget for the fiscal year beginning in July. The $34.9 billion budget outline is about a $4.5 billion increase over Gov. Mike Parson’s original fiscal plan released in January. It includes $10 billion in state general revenue, $14.5 billion in federal funding and $10.3 billion in other funds.
The blueprint includes two major differences from what Gov. Parson recommended in January. The latest version no longer includes a 2% pay raise that Parson recommended for most state workers and MoHealthnet is planning to use a savings plan in which the state moves to an outpatient fee schedule that is tied to Medicare. According to Chris Dunn with Missouri House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith’s office, upwards of $90 million would be saved in hospital and managed care reimbursements.
The revised budget plan includes about $10.4 billion to the Missouri Department of Social Services. Most of the Social Services budget goes to Medicaid costs.
About $3.5 billion in base funding would go to Missouri’s K-12 public schools – the same amount as in the current year’s budget. As for school bus transportation, $100 million is being proposed – a reduction of about $7 million compared to the current budget year.
About $1.5 billion would go to the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development – a roughly $200 million increase over the current year. The figure includes both the general revenue cuts that Representative Smith proposed and an increase of federal authority should federal funds be made available to support the state’s two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Under the plan, they would get a 10% reduction in funding compared to the current year.
The Department of Corrections budget proposal would be about $805 million – a $24 million increase over the current year. About $38.5 million would go to reimbursing county jails for transporting inmates and holding offenders who end up going to state prison – the same amount as the current year’s budget.
The Missouri Department of Transportation would get about $3 billion, compared to $2.93 billion in the current year’s budget.
Under the House plan, there would be some shuffling of the size of the state’s workforce. Missouri would have 53,935 state workers, a net increase of three full-time equivalent state employees.
Full-time equivalent, or FTE, refers to the number of hours worked by a single employee in a week. FTE is used to convert the hours worked by part-time employees into those worked by full-time staff.
The largest staff increase is 197.5 FTEs the governor requested to be added in the Department of Public Safety to help with the pandemic. The largest reduction would be 128 FTE workers in the Department of Corrections. As the offender population has declined, the agency plans to consolidate certain housing units so that some housing units can be closed. This is allowing the department to reduce vacant FTE positions.
The Missouri House is debating the budget bills and final approval is expected today. Then the Missouri Senate will go from there. Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, says the Senate Appropriations Committee is planning to take up the budget on Saturday and work through the weekend.
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