House approves state’s $27 billion budget, Senate approval to come

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House has officially fulfilled their duties in signing off on the state’s spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Less than 48 hours after perfecting the state’s budget, the House pushed forward in their one mission mandated by the state constitution, third reading and passing all thirteen appropriations bills in less than three hours.

The $27.8 billion proposed plan includes $45 million more in funding for public schools from grades K-12, while cutting higher education funding. However, the House’s cuts to higher education were softer blows than those initially proposed by Gov. Eric Greitens.

The House plan also restores another cut proposed by Greitens that would have impacted more than 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians receiving state-funded in-home care and nursing home services.

House majority leadership proudly spoke of their work to fully fund the state’s education foundation formula for the first time since its inception Thursday afternoon, while their Democratic counterparts were quick to point out that the numbers required to reach that mark were lowered last year.

Despite their differences in opinions, both sides of the House congratulated each other on their efforts as they sent off the budget to the other side of the building, the Missouri Senate.

That, it seems, is where things may run into some issues. Sen. Dan Brown, the budget committee chairman in the Senate, has already signaled that the chamber may not allow the plan to fully fund the foundation formula to pass through unscathed.

I’m going to try to get as close as possible to fully funding the formula, but I think there’s some better uses of some of that money,” he said Thursday.

Brown expressed concern that it could create problems they did not expect, including the triggering of a law requiring funding for early childhood programs.

“Sen. Wasson is working on a bill now, but it’s going to phase in how many children will be taking part in early childhood. The costs could be as much as $62 million,” Brown said. “So if we fully fund the formula and short some other things, we create a $62 million dollar hole for next year, we haven’t done anyone a lot of favors.”

The Senate committee is expected to take up the bills and begin hearing them next week.

Some good news also came out this week as the Show-Me State works amidst a budget shortfall. It looks as if the state is bringing in stronger tax growth revenue numbers than they had expected. Through March, tax money coming into the state’s general revenue have increased 4.3 percent from over a year ago, higher than state officials’ earlier projections of 3 percent.