Senate OKs budget plan cutting back $50 million from education foundation formula

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Senate has completed its work on the state’s $27.8 billion budget, but one thing remains clear: the Senate and House do not see eye to eye when it comes to how education dollars should be spent.

The Senate on Wednesday pushed forward with their position, coming up $50 million short of fully funding the state’s K-12 education system as the House had intended.

Just one year prior, a bipartisan group of senators pushed back against GOP leadership to fully fund the education foundation formula for the first time in the state’s history.

This year, however, their vote shortchanged the formula, instead allocating some of that money to other items, such as $25 million added to K-12 school transportation and about $15 million for nursing home facilities’ reimbursement rates.

Sen. Dan Brown said that the budget plan, which put $48 million toward the foundation formula “meets the adequacy target,” but that they “need to have a conference before fully funding the formula.” He told the chamber that money is needed to pay for school busing, nursing home services and to soften the blows of cuts to state employee health care.

“There are methods to the madness here,” he said. “It was a necessity to readjust some of this money. All I’m asking to do is let me go to conference on this, and it’s my goal that we put every dime that we can into education.”

Sen. Jill Schupp responded with an amendment that would add $50 million, returning the number back to the House funding level, but it never got a vote.

“We have children that cannot read or write that are being pushed through the system,” Sen. Jamilah Nasheed said, voicing her support of Schupp’s amendment. “And they’re more concerned about the fiscal notes than they are about having young men and women who are equipped.”

But when it came to a vote, the bill passed with a 25-8 vote.

Former state senator Ryan Silvey, one of the senators who helped lead the way to fully fund the formula in the Senate last year, took to Twitter on Wednesday afternoon to share his disappointment in the Senate’s decision.

“In the past few years, we have actually shortchanged transportation, which could eventually lead to a lawsuit,” Brown said. “Transportation funding is especially important for our rural school districts. If we continue decreasing transportation funding, it hurts every public school student. That’s why we made an increase in funding for school transportation another priority this year.”

As for the budget for the Department of Higher Education, the Senate agreed to fund the universities core budgets at the same levels as the current fiscal year with a 31-1 vote, working under the condition that universities do not raise tuition rates by more than one percent. The Senate position also includes an extra $2 million in emergency spending relief for Harris-Stowe and $2.5 million for Missouri Southern State University, as well as $10 million for the University of Missouri’s Cooperative Medical School expansion.

Another significant difference has to do with the pay raises for state workers. The Senate’s unanimous vote on Wednesday would postpone the $700 per year raises.

The proposed plan had intended to give $700 per year raise to state workers making under $70,000, while those above the line would get a one percent raise. But under the Senate budget, those raises would not take effect until after January 1, 2019, instead of the beginning of the fiscal year.

That’s because Sen. Brown stated that if something wasn’t done about healthcare, then the premium increases would likely be twice as much as the pay raise.

The Senate, however, did approve a $61.2 million increase in the amount the state pays for the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), the state employee benefits plan.

“If we do not put more money into the plan, we run the risk of dramatic premium increases,” Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe said. “That comes at a cost to our state employees, and it effectively cancels out the raises for those employees built into the budget. Preventing these premium increases and protecting the pay raises for state employees was a priority of mine as well as many of my colleagues.”

As for HB 2006, which passed with a 32-1 vote, Sen. Brown noted that the proposal would fully pay off the state’s Qualified Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund once and for all.

Dealing with the Department of Health and Senior Services budget, Sen. Jason Holsman sought to try and add an amendment to prohibit public funds from being provided to abortion facilities or alternatives to abortion agencies that fail to provide medically accurate information.

“Public funds should never be used to spread misinformation,” Holsman said. “My amendment protects taxpayers while helping to ensure that women seeking care get medically accurate information for any health care option they are seeking. I am disappointed that some of my colleagues in the Senate did not support this common sense proposal to ensure both abortion facilities and alternatives to abortion agencies are held to the same standard.”

The amendment failed along party lines during a standing-division vote.

With just three bills left to deal with, the Senate then passed HB 2011, the $9.6 billion portion of the budget dealing with social services. Brown said that one of the changes included would increase funding for nursing home reimbursement rates, raising $8.30 per day every patient, a $25.1 million hit to general revenue.

And after seven hours spent on the budget, the Senate completed their task at 9 p.m., adjourning until Thursday morning. The Senate and House still need to conference on the bills, and has until 6 p.m. on May 11, 2018, to send the final budget to the governor’s desk.

 

Here are the Senate vote tallies for the budget bills:

HB 2001 (Brown) – Appropriates money to the Board of Fund Commissioners
Vote: 33-0

HB 2002 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the State Board of Education and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Vote: 25-8

HB 2003 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Higher Education
Vote: 31-1

HB 2004 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Revenue and Department of Transportation
Vote: 33-0

HB 2005 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Office of Administration, Department of Transportation, and Department of Public Safety
Vote: 33-0

HB 2006 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Conservation
Vote: 32-1

HB 2007 (Brown)- Appropriates money for the departments of Economic Development; Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration; and Labor and Industrial Relations
Vote: 30-3

HB 2008 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Public Safety
Vote: 33-0

HB 2009 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Corrections
Vote: 30-2

HB 2010 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of the Department of Mental Health, Board of Public Buildings, and Department of Health and Senior Services
Vote: 25-8

HB 2011 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, and distributions of the Department of Social Services
Vote: 27-6

HB 2012 (Brown) – Appropriates money for the expenses, grants, refunds, and distributions of statewide elected officials, the Judiciary, Office of the State Public Defender, and General Assembly
Vote: 32-1

HB 2013 (Brown)  Appropriates money for real property leases and related services
Vote: 32-1

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.