Advancing the 2018 Budget
This week – nine days before the constitutional deadline – the Missouri Senate passed its version of the state’s 2018 operating budget. The $27.8 billion budget, made up of 13 House Bills has been sent back to the House of Representatives for its consideration.
Passing this year’s budget was not an easy task, though through hard work and compromise lawmakers are on the path to delivering the budget to the governor by the 6 p.m., May 5 deadline.
We are in tough budgetary times. Many of my constituents have asked that the General Assembly not make cuts to mental health, education or corrections. However, we have to, like any family does, cinch our belt. Nobody wants to cut any important funding items.
House Bill 2, which concerns funding for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, proved to be an issue many are passionate about, as House Bill 2 brought up the issue of fully funding the education foundation formula. During debate on House Bill 2, an amendment was offered to increase the funding of the foundation formula by $45 million versus what the Appropriations Committee had sent to the floor. This amendment did not indicate where the $45 million would be cut from, so as to maintain a balanced budget, and retain reserves for emergencies. In fact only one amendment was even offered (for $9 million) to cut anything from the budget to make up for the $45 million dollar increase to the foundation formula. In light of that, I voted against the funding amendment. I have always supported fully funding the foundation formula, and I voted in favor of House Bill 2, however I do not approve of tactics that support increasing the budget where we like without making cuts to pay for those increases.
In light of the long debate and a poorly constructed amendment, I am glad that the foundation formula will be fully funded for the first time in a decade. Providing the funding our schools count on is important to achieving a quality education with successful schools. Other highlights from the Senate version of the budget is a $12 million increase to early childhood special education funding and fully funding the Bright Flight scholarship program.
Since the House and Senate positions regarding the foundation formula matched, that item will not be debatable during the conference committee. As of right now, I do not know what the committee will decide to cut to pay for the increase to the foundation formula, but I hope the conference committee’s report will not negatively impact budgetary items that are important to my district.
The budget now goes before a 10-member conference committee, made up of five members from each chamber. Once a compromise is reached, the budget will return to both chambers for final approval.
It is an honor to be your State Senator and my door is always open to your concerns, questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-2757 or visit my web page at www.senate.mo.gov/riddle.