The move from the November to the August ballot comes after the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office certified the Medicaid expansion initiative petition to appear before voters last week. The office had used “random sampling” to verify the more than 341,000 signatures submitted for Petition 2020-63 earlier this month. This requires the office to examine and verify 5 percent of the collected signatures.
The number of signatures verified must be at least 8 percent of the number of voters in at least six of the eight congressional districts who cast ballots for the gubernatorial race in the last election by congressional district.
The use of random sampling raised eyebrows last week. In a letter sent to the secretary of state Friday requesting more information, Stinson LLP attorney Chuck Hatfield questioned whether random sampling was used in order for the initiative petition to be certified in time for Parson to bump it to the August ballot. Earlier this month, Parson told reporters he doesn’t believe “it’s the time to be expanding” a program such as Medicaid given the financial uncertainty brought by the coronavirus crisis.
But Parson maintained his decision was based on economic concerns.
“I want to be clear, this is about policy, not about politics. At a time when our state is undergoing major health, economic, and budget crisis, we need to know exactly where we stand when it comes to a massive spending initiative for Missouri,” Parson said. “Our government is working day and night to make the best decisions for the people of our state. To make those decisions, we need to know as much information as soon as possible. Missouri is already one of the top 5 states in the U.S. for general revenue spending on Medicaid and [it’s estimated] we will need an additional $88 million in general revenue through 2021 because of COVID-19. So pass or fail, it’s important we understand the implications of what would be a new spending bill of our already depleted general revenue.”
Parson said the expansion would compete against Mental Health, DESE, Public Safety, and Higher Education departments for general revenue funds.
“Missourians will determine the outcome, and it is critical that we hear their decision as soon as possible which is why we’re placing it on the August ballot. This will give us more time to account for the outcome in our state budget,” Parson said.
“I applaud Governor Mike Parson for bringing this issue to a vote as soon as possible,” House Budget Chair Cody Smith said. “The COVID-19 crisis will require changes to our state budget. We already face a difficult budget year and the budget difficulties would grow exponentially if the fiscally-irresponsible Medicaid Expansion passes. We need a quick answer on the expansion issue so budget officials can get a better handle on the changes that must be made to keep the state’s budget balanced.”
Democratic leadership has already come out against the governor’s move.
“The governor knows Republicans will pay a political price for their failed health care policies and hopes to minimize it by playing games with the election date,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement. “It won’t work. Medicaid expansion has always enjoyed widespread support among Missourians, and right now it is more important than ever. The only thing the governor’s crassly partisan move changes is Medicaid expansion will be enshrined in the Missouri Constitution three months earlier than expected.”
The initiative will be voted on in the primary election on Aug. 4. Tuesday was the deadline for moving the measure.