Senator David Pearce – Capitol Report for the Week of April 11

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Senate Moves Forward with 2017 Budget

Senate lawmakers have sent the House budget bills for fiscal year 2017 on to the final stage of negotiations. The $27.1 billion budget encompasses the wide range of state-funded departments, services and programs, and will now need to be debated and agreed upon by a joint conference committee of both the Senate and House. The committee will be comprised of five senators and five representatives – and will work to reach agreements and finalize the bills. Once agreed upon by both chambers, the final step requires the 2017 budget to be approved by the governor, who has the ability for line-item vetoes.

Some of the House budget bills that impact the largest areas of state funding that were passed in the Senate are as follows:

House Bill 2002 – Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)

House Bill 2002 deals with 2017 DESE funding, and calls for a 2.1 percent increase in the Department’s budget – to almost $6 billion. Some of the highlights from HB 2002 include an over $70 million increase for the Foundation Formula, a $36.6 million increase to the School District Trust Fund and around $24 million in increased funding for school food services. Also included in the DESE budget is a $5 million increase for enhancing school district transportation.

The increased funding for the K-12 Foundation Formula and our other education services would mean that school districts across the state could receive the adequate resources they need to provide a quality education to young Missouri students. I’m happy with the increased investment toward making Missouri educators, students and families more satisfied with our state’s school system.

House Bill 2003 – Department of Higher Education (DHE)

House Bill 2003 maps out a financial plan for Missouri’s colleges and universities by increasing total DHE funding. Some of the proposed budget changes outlined within HB 2003 include an increase of $55 million based on performance. Also included is $4.4 million to increase equity funding for community colleges. 2017’s DESE budget would increase the A+ Scholarship Program’s funding by $2.5 million, allowing the program to better assist eligible graduates of A+ schools seek higher education at community college. There are also increases for the Access Missouri and Bright Flight scholarship programs.

House Bills 2010 and 2011 – Department of Health and Senior Services (DSS), Department of Mental Health (DMH) and Department of Social Services (DSS)

2017’s state DHSS budget calls for a 6.9 percent increase in total funding, and largely deals with Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), the Aids Drug Assistance Program and tax amnesty funds for private duty nurses and HCBS providers. This increase for DHSS would mean Missouri’s at-risk elderly and youth citizens could get the access to the quality health care services they require.

The proposed DMH budget calls for an increase of 8.3 percent, with additional funding being allocated to DMH Mo HealthNet programs, developmental disability service providers and emergency room enhancement projects, among other increases. State Medicaid and mental health services help high-risk citizens in all corners of Missouri, and the 8 percent increase would enable our state’s many DMH programs to more effectively treat, prevent and handle mental illness and health care.

House Bill 2011 deals with the $9.2 billion DSS budget, which has been proposed to increase by 7 percent from last year. The House bill calls for $262,369,583 in additional funding for Medicaid and an increase of $170,837,494 for pharmacy inflation and increased utilization. The Department of Social Services allows Missourians of all ages to have equitable access to high-quality health care, and the proposed 2017 budget would increase that access across the state.

House Bill 2005 –Employee Benefits

The 2017 budget has proposed a 2 percent pay increase for Missouri public employees. Currently, state public employees rank near the bottom in terms of pay, and this legislation would increase Missouri’s attractiveness for workers and families looking to make a living here.

House Bill 2009 – Department of Corrections

An overall 3 percent increase to the state’s correctional budget has been proposed. Included within the increase is a 2 percent pay hike for correctional employees plus additional hazardous duty pay raises. Increased funding for reimbursements to county jails, totaling at $3.5 million, would work to help fund our overcrowded corrections system, and $678,877 would be allocated to the Chillicothe Women’s Correctional Facility for the opening of a new wing at the complex.

This is great news for the Women’s Facility as they are already overcrowded and need the additional space. The new 96-bed unit is sorely needed for the center, which has an already overtaxed and always-growing inmate population.

The deadline to finish the budget this year is 6 p.m. on May 6. At this rate, we are well on the way to meeting our constitutional deadline.

As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or (573) 751-2272, or by fax at (573) 526-7381.

Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties in the 21st State Senatorial District.