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General Assembly gives final approval to FY22 budget

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Both chambers of the Missouri legislature gave final approval to the more than $34 billion budget Friday afternoon. 

The House began third reading budget bills, passing them along to the Senate. Most bills passed without conflict, with the lack of funding for Medicaid expansion the biggest topic of conversation in the lower chamber. A recommendation from the governor was stripped during the package’s time in the House Budget Committee and never returned despite attempts from both chambers and both sides of the aisle. 

“None of these budget bills contain any appropriation for the Medicaid population expansion,” House Budget Committee Chair Cody Smith said when HBs 10 and 11, which would have included the funding, came to the floor. “Instead, we are taking that money that we would have put into that expansion and spending it in a variety of ways to help our most vulnerable in the state of Missouri. That was a House position, it held through the conference process, and here we are today arriving at no appropriations for Medicaid expansion.”

Smith saw pushback from Rep. Peter Merideth, the ranking minority member of the committee, who decried the lack of funding and pointed to constitutional language on the measure approved by voters last year. 

“The reality is we are underfunding Medicaid services for all Medicaid enrollees, including those in the expansion population. That’s because the constitution is very explicit; the expansion population shall be eligible and shall receive coverage by July 1,” Merideth said. “It says we can’t offer services to one group of people and not to the expansion population.” 

The bills ultimately passed both chambers by a wide margin, with HB 10 progressing 106-47 in the House and finally passing in the upper chamber 21-9. HB 11, which appropriated funds for the Department of Social Services, received a vote of 105-46 in the House and 20-10 in the Senate. Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin was the sole Republican to vote against the second bill, pointing to funding priorities in the bill. 

“The bureaucrats in charge sometimes do more harm than good in taking care of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens, especially our kids,” O’Laughlin said. “Children’s Division workers in rural areas aren’t given the resources they need. I would like to see an overhaul of the entire system because it is failing on a daily basis.”

In the upper chamber, leadership on both sides of the aisle agreed the issue would likely be decided by the courts; Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden told reporters there was a possibility Gov. Mike Parson could take action on the issue, with the courts taking over if the fund is still in flux by the time enrollment begins. 

“It is undoubtedly a grey area that a court is going to weigh in on,” Rowden said. “If the governor takes no action on it, that’s how it’s going to play out.”

The upper chamber saw a band of conservative lawmakers opposing various budget bills; Sens. Rick Brattin, Bill Eigel, Mike Moon, and Bob Onder, who collectively voted against many of the same measures during perfection, continued to oppose several bills in the package.  

The finalized version included a myriad of big topics from this session, including $48 million to cover the state’s share of mistaken unemployment overpayments issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. A bipartisan push to forgive the payments began after the Department of Labor started pursuing repayment, and both chambers have progressed legislation seeking to waive recoupment. Members in the Conference Committee on Budget noted earlier in the week it was an appropriation for a measure that had not yet reached the finish line. 

Supplemental bill HB 15 also included $50 million for the Municipal Utility Emergency Loan Program, another bipartisan effort that would assist local utilities reeling from the impact of February’s cold snap. An additional provision would provide $1 million for the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund approved by the legislature last year without funding.

Conner Kerrigan contributed to this report.