JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House and Senate have put the finishing touches on the state’s $28 billion budget, with the bills making their way to the Governor’s desk for the final signature.
Here are some of the accomplishments the chambers are proud of:
For the second year in a row, the K-12 education foundation formula has been fully funded, providing nearly $99 million in funding for the next fiscal year.
“Budgets are about priorities,” Rep. Justin Alferman, the vice chair of the House Budget Committee, said, reminding everyone that the state of Missouri has never fully funded the foundation formula for two years in a row. It marks a significant moment for legislators, though all would agree that more should be done if more money were available.
But in addition to that, the chambers also approved $10 million to K-12 transportation funding, which has been considered a major concern throughout the process, with legislators noting that students still have to get to school to learn.
“We’ve got a ways to go, obviously, but it’s definitely going to help,” Rep. Kip Kendrick said.
The Senate had sought $25 million for the fund, but the $10 million compromise is a step forward compared to the House’s original $0.
As for higher education, universities and colleges will be funded at current levels, so long as they don’t raise tuition more than one percent.
Another victory for lawmakers is giving state workers a pay increase starting January 2019: $700 for everyone making under $70,000 and 1% for everyone making more than $70k.
A prohibition on the use of funds for tolling was pulled back, which now cannot be used for construction, maintenance or operation, but could be used to do studies.
They also increased the amount of money paid to public defenders – if they don’t have more public defenders and pay them for the work they do, Brown said that it could eventually lead to the federal government taking a look at the situation.
Here’s a look at the top areas of controversy and debate during third reading and final passage:
For the fifth year in a row, the legislature would deny in-state tuition and financial aid to DACA students and those without legal immigration status. It also requires public colleges and universities to charge those students the same tuition rate as international students. If schools don’t, they would be faced with losing their state funding.
Rep. Judy Morgan and fellow Democrats cried out against the move, saying that those students had no say in coming to the U.S. Vice Chair Alferman responded, saying that universities could either charge less for international tuition or get rid of that rate completely.
The debate over the Bourbon virus and the House Budget Committee’s request for information from the Department of Health has dominated much of the discussion throughout the process. House Republicans were not happy with the Department’s response for their request to the info, with Rep. Justin Alferman saying they had not supplied them with what they asked for, even after receiving a subpoena. As a result, the committee decided to cut the director’s operating budget in half.
Legislators at least partially restored cuts they made in the previous year for reimbursements to medical providers who treat Medicaid patients, while also increasing some funds for nursing homes, but there was still plenty of debate about funding for social service programs.
The largest amount of time was spent discussing the ban on reimbursements to providers who provide abortion services, like Planned Parenthood or physician offices. Democrats argued against the provision, saying that the Hyde Amendment already bans the use of federal dollars to reimburse abortion services unless in a case of rape, incest, or threat to the mother’s life.
Democrats also objected to tax credits that the state gives out to crisis pregnancy centers, saying that they steer women away from abortion and do not always provide medically accurate information to the patients.
“I’d like to commend the leadership of the Missouri General Assembly for wisely investing in the people of our state. Our policymakers understand that in order to develop the workforce we need, we must be willing to give our young people — and anyone with the desire to learn a valuable skill — the opportunity to better themselves and provide value to our economy,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “We would like to especially thank appropriations committee chairmen Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick and Sen. Dan Brown for their work this year. Writing the state budget is a daunting task. We greatly appreciate their expertise and their efforts to prioritize state funding in a way that will help better prepare our workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced 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.