The biggest challenge the Legislature faces every year is how do we responsibly spend our taxpayers’ hard-earned money? The only constitutional mandate for us is to pass an on-time and balanced budget that Missouri taxpayers can afford. In that budget, we must find the best way to fund our public schools, health care and transportation. But the challenge remains. How do we fund those critical functions of government and still take care of those individuals who are the most vulnerable in Missouri?
This year, I believe our budget is a good reflection of the Senate’s commitment to the Show-Me State. Not only did the Senate approve a record amount of funding for K-12 education, but we also restored $68 million in cuts by the governor to higher education for community colleges and four-year institutions. This keeps us in line with our commitment to make sure Missouri has an educated, well-trained workforce ready for all kinds of 21st century jobs and careers. We also fought for and won provider rate increases for in-home health care and an increase of the daily reimbursement rate for nursing homes. These budget increases show our commitment to the elderly and most vulnerable in Missouri. Thanks to the leadership of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee and the willingness of all senators to tackle these challenges, we believe we have found a balance which best meets the needs of all Missourians.
This upcoming fiscal year, the Senate voted to increase the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) Foundation Formula by an additional $48 million. By funding DESE at this level, we are hitting the State Adequacy Target. The Senate position also increases school transportation funding by $25 million. In the past few years, transportation funding has been cut and/or withheld drastically (from about 70 to 17 percent of what is needed), which could eventually lead to a lawsuit. Transportation funding is especially important for our rural school districts. If we continue to decrease transportation funding, it hurts every public school student. That’s why we made an increase in funding for school transportation one of our top priorities this year.
The Senate also increased the amount the state pays for the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), the state employee benefits plan, by $61.2 million. Fewer than two weeks ago, we learned that MCHCP was underfunded. If we do not put more money into the plan, we run the risk of massive premium increases. This comes at a cost to our state employees and cancels out the raises for those employees we had built into the budget.
While we tried to meet the needs of all of the departments, ultimately we had to make some tough decisions. I owe a huge thank you to the Senate Appropriations chairman and his hard-working staff. Together with committee members, they worked long hours to find savings where they could and give recommendations of responsible spending and make government more efficient.
The work is not over yet. The Senate will still need to conference with the House on most of the budget bills before they are sent to the governor for his signature. The next fiscal year begins on July 1. The General Assembly has until 6 p.m. on May 11, 2018, to get the final budget to the governor’s desk.
Due to the number of visitors we receive from the District each week, I encourage you to call my office ahead of your visit to schedule an appointment.
I am honored to serve as your Senator in the Missouri Senate. If, at any time, you have questions, concerns or ideas regarding state government, please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-8793 or Sandy.Crawford@senate.mo.gov.
I am pleased to announce that the Missouri Department of Revenue has agreed to reopen the bid for the Stockton License office. (https://missouribuys.mo.gov/). The bid opens today (4/26), and the last day to submit bids will be Friday, May 11, 2018, at 12 noon. If you have questions, please contact Molly Hurt, 301 West High Street, Room 630, Jefferson City, MO 65101, Tel: 573-751-8900 or Molly.Hurt@oa.mo.gov.
Recent Visitors at the Capitol
Agape Boarding School, Stockton
Tim Martin, Will Fagerlund, Connor Morris, Senator Crawford, Seth Harper and Eric Schafer
Missouri Cattlemen’s Association Day at the Capitol
Traves Merrick (Lawrence Co.), Sandy Arthur (Hickory Co.), Lynette Miller (Dallas Co.),
Clay Doeden (Cedar Co.), Senator Crawford, Marvin Dieckman (Benton Co.),
Patty Wood (Pettis Co.), Rodney Johnson (Benton Co.) and Glenda Merrick (Lawrence Co.)
Leadership Columbia Day at the Capitol
Pam Bowman, Chuck Bowman (Monarch Title Co), Senator Crawford and Paige Harper (Landmark Bank)
Missouri Electric Co-op Day at the Capitol
Lloyd Gunter (Dallas Co.)