One bill down for the Missouri Legislature – and it’s a big one. Lawmakers have passed and Gov. Mike Parson has signed into law today a $4.6 billion spending bill with $2 billion in federal funds for Missouri’s K-12 schools, state worker pay raises, and additional Medicaid funding.
The bill allows extra spending for the current budget year. It is the first one to pass since lawmakers began session in early January.
The Senate has been engulfed all session by Republican infighting about Congressional redistricting, the governor’s nominee for the Department of Health and Senior Services, a member wearing overalls in the chamber, among other things. The bickering has delayed other priorities getting handled in a timely fashion this session.
The plan allows state agencies to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour, if they choose, and a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment for all state workers. Missouri has one of the lowest paid state workforces in the nation – at a time when the state and nation are dealing with major staffing shortages.
Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, says the state’s seven nursing homes for veterans are only at half capacity because they only have about half the amount of staff needed to care for patients. He also says correctional officers who work for Missouri’s prison system are putting in a lot of overtime.
“A little overtime is great,” he says. “A lot of overtime is not so wonderful. It wears you out and it wears you down.”
Hegeman says $20 million will help address summer learning. About $19 million is for teacher recruitment and retention grants and $19 million for mental health support.
The plan also includes $100 million for private schools and $219 million for school food programs.
“This should make our superintendents happy and our folks out there that are eager to use those funds to help address learning loss that’s going on through all this COVID situation,” Hegeman says.
The Senate Appropriations Committee removed a new $75 million program to address learning loss as a result the pandemic. Some members felt the program needs extra review before a vote is taken on that particular effort.
Roughly $444 million goes to child care providers to help reimburse their operations, provide incentives to recruit and retain staff, and support professional development.
The Senate added a ban on Medicaid dollars going to abortion clinics or affiliates of abortion clinics.
Missouri has one abortion clinic. It is located in the St. Louis area. All other Planned Parenthood locations in Missouri are not licensed to offer abortions.
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, opposes that piece of the legislation. She says about 7,600 patients use Planned Parenthood services.
“This language continues to be put into our budget bill to make sure not only that we do not fund abortion, which we do not. This is not about abortion. This is about taking away contraception from low-income women around the state and from providing health care to low-income people around the state,” says Schupp.
Hegeman and Schupp argued over that part of the bill. Hegeman says people can still go to federally-qualified healthcare centers (FQHC) for their reproductive health services.
“We have a great network of FQHCs out across the state,” says Hegeman.
“Yes, we do,” says Schupp.
“They do a great job of taking care of the poor. I’m a big fan of the FQHCs,” says Hegeman.
“I’m a big fan of the FQHCs, too,” says Schupp. “I will tell you it is my understanding that there is no way they can take on 7,600 patients now or as soon as this goes into effect. The FQHCs are going to be overwhelmed. All kinds of places are going to be overwhelmed trying to get these patients who we have denied their coverage under their provider.”
“In the upcoming regular budget, I think we’re going to see greater appropriations for the FQHCs in the state of Missouri to address maybe a greater workload,” says Hegeman.
Schupp also questions the constitutionality of the provision.
To view House Bill 3014, click here.
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