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House budget chair’s plan calls for full funding of K-12, major cuts to Medicaid funding

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The work on Missouri’s budget has been constant for the past month-and-a-half, with lawmakers receiving the Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed budget in early February. Since then, the House Budget Committee has met almost daily, holding a number of hearings with each department presenting their budgets.

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year comes with a price tag of $27.6 billion, based on an expected Consensus Revenue Estimate of 3.8 percent. Greitens has cut roughly $146 million to balance the budget this year due to lower-than-projected revenues. Former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon had already cut about $200 million before leaving office.

The reason behind the cuts is weak revenue growth and increasing costs for some programs. Republicans point to social services and Medicaid as the largest growing costs affecting the state budget, and the costs are expected to impact the next year’s budget, too. Greitens has already recommended a $572 million cut for next year’s budget, though lawmakers anticipate $9.398 billion in general revenue for FY 2018.

But after roughly six weeks spent working on the budget, the House Budget Committee seems to have made some progress. Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, serves as the chairman of the House committee and released his budget proposal on Wednesday.

The first thing that caught people’s eyes was the fact that Fitzpatrick’s plan would fully fund the K-12 foundation formula. The plan calls for about $45 million more than what Greitens had proposed for basic aid for schools, as well as $36 million more than the governor’s proposed funding toward school transportation.

The source for a significant portion of the funds comes from lottery proceeds.

The plan also includes $3.5 million more towards the Dept. of Agriculture, put toward the Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund. Gov. Nixon made cuts to that fund while in office during 2016, but eventually released them.

But Fitzpatrick’s plan also recommends less money for the Department of Social Services, specifically Medicaid. The plan would give more funding in the next fiscal year than in the current one but still calls for a massive cut in funds, more than $236 million less in state, federal and other sources than Greitens’ plan.

One significant change to the budget is the removal of “E” from the line items. Where in the past it has been used as a marker for a sort of unlimited fund, Fitzpatrick made it a personal mission to remove as many appropriations with that designation, and instead put an actual number down.

The fiscal year’s budget still needs to pass through both the House and the Senate before it can go to the governor for approval.

They have until May 5 to send the budget to the governor’s desk, but Fitzpatrick has said several times that will not be an issue.

“This is the single constitutional thing we have to do,” he said in an interview back in January. “We’ll get it done on time. We’ll do whatever we have to do to meet our constitutional responsibility of passing a budget by May 5th.”

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