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From Medicaid expansion to gas tax, key lawmakers wrap up session

  

With session coming to a close, legislators from both sides of the aisle and chambers recapped the biggest issues of the last few months. 

Reps. Ashley Bland Manlove and Dan Houx joined Sunday’s episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” to discuss the end of session and the year’s biggest debates, from the fight to reform education to funding for Medicaid expansion. Despite being included in the governor’s recommendation, the $34 billion budget passed without an appropriation for expansion.

“It looks like — while the governor supported it and I think the Senate would have supported it — the House affected the budget process,” Bland Manlove said. “It’s been a rough two years for the House on the budget, but this year the House really made itself known by saying we’re not doing Medicaid, and the Senate followed, and now it’ll have to go to the courts.” 

Houx, however, recalled a common argument against funding the expansion: Critics in and outside of the legislature have pointed to the lack of a clear funding source in the ballot measure’s language, an issue that failed to hold the petition back from the ballot despite legal challenges. The same argument was used by members in the upper chamber who opposed the appropriation.

“I took an oath of office to uphold the Missouri Constitution when I was elected and sworn in,” Houx said. “It’s very clear to me in black and white right here that if there’s no funding mechanism we don’t have to fund it. … The House did set $500 million underneath the treasure in case the court case loses, so the money is there. We need to make a pretty prudent decision.”

The representatives also discussed education, rural broadband, and other issues considered in the legislature this year. 

Gas tax and education

Sens. Greg Razer and Jason Bean joined the show for its second half to weigh in on Medicaid expansion and other priorities in the upper chamber. With the maintenance of the state’s roads and bridges at the forefront of the current administration’s mind, President Pro Tem Dave Schatz’s gas tax bill is up for third reading in the House; it passed the Senate in March after extensive debate. 

“I hope this is the year we get it done,” Razer said. “We haven’t raised the fuel tax in the state of Missouri since 1996, the year I graduated high school. It’s been a quarter of a century, and we’re asking the Department of Transportation to maintain our infrastructure on the same amount of money. … Nobody likes paying more fuel tax at the pump, but somebody’s got to pay for it.”

Education dominated the conversation in the Senate this year, from massive reform bills to education savings accounts (ESAs). Bean said schools were vital to communities and the state and that there were funding issues to address in the future.

“There are some children that definitely suffer here in the state of Missouri and I understand that, so I think we can look at a potential compromise,” he said. “In my district, I hear a lot about transportation funding — we’ve got some definite problems with our schools being underfunded on transportation. If you don’t think schools are important to the community, come to the booth on a Friday night during basketball season.”

Watch the full episode of “This Week in Missouri Politics” below, or listen to the podcast version here.