Legislative Column for the Week of April 6, 2015

Senate Passes Fiscally Responsible Budget

Legislative News

Passing a fiscally responsible budget is the single most important thing the Missouri Legislature does each session. Allocating funds for our state’s vital programs and services is an enormous undertaking, which requires months of hard work and focused discussion. While the Fiscal Year 2016 budget will likely not be finalized for another few weeks, we moved one step closer on Wednesday (4-8) with the Senate’s approval of its version of this year’s $26.1 billion budget.

Providing for the education of Missouri’s children, and ensuring the Show-Me State has a highly educated workforce, is always at the top of our priority list. For FY 2016, the Senate has appropriated an additional $84 million in funding for the state’s K-12 school foundation formula; an additional $27.6 million in performance-based funding for state colleges and universities; and a combined $6.5 million funding increase for our community and state technical colleges.

The Senate also approved $100,000 in general revenue funds for the juvenile detention center in Joplin. In February, the Joplin Fire Marshall inspected the juvenile detention center and condemned part of the building. The center serves Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties. These kids are now being transported to Springfield. This money will help fund the purchase or lease of a new building. I am also trying to amend bills that will raise court fees for the next 10 years to help with funding.

Two major changes pertaining to Medicaid and state social services departments are also included in the Senate’s budget. Currently, a portion of Missouri’s Medicaid recipients are on a fee-for-service care model; the Senate’s budget would shift an additional 200,000 of them to managed care plans, which generally focus on preventive care, providing these individuals with more streamlined healthcare. Additionally, statewide managed care was the number one recommendation to come out of the Interim Committee on Medicaid Transformation and Reform.

Another major change comes in how funding for the Departments of Mental Health, Social Services, and Health and Senior Services will be allocated. Historically, the budgets for each of these departments have appropriated specific amounts for each program. Under the Senate’s version, these departments would each receive a lump sum amount of funding to allocate as they deem necessary.

It is our hope these changes will reduce costs and motivate our social services departments to practice more fiscally sound habits. Each year, Missouri’s welfare programs consume more and more of our state budget. These departments must do a better job of managing their money. The path we are on is simply unsustainable. While it’s just a start, these steps should get us closer to where we need to be.

Twelve of the 13 appropriations bills that make up FY 2016’s operating budget are now on their way to a conference committee, where members from both chambers will resolve any differences between the House and Senate’s versions. Although the Legislature has until 6 p.m., Friday, May 8, to deliver its finalized budget to the governor, we plan to complete it much sooner than in prior years in order to overturn any of the governor’s line-item budget vetoes, as well as any decisions to withhold money from the state budget—a new legislative authority approved by Missouri voters in the November 2014 election.  

Helpful Consumer Financial Information

This week, the Missouri Credit Union Association is providing tips for 20-somethings to avoid that will help them achieve financial success faster. Between student loans, pressure to start saving early for retirement and expensive urban housing markets, many 20-somethings find themselves in a financial rut that can be hard to escape.

Here are five tips for those in their 20s to avoid in order to achieve financial success faster:

  • Taking Out Too Much in Student Loans – Be sure to apply for grants and scholarships before going the student loan route. Credit unions, for example, may offer scholarships to graduating seniors who are members. And there are numerous web sites available to search and apply for state and local grants and scholarships. Other free scholarship databases include FastWeb, CollegeBoard and Scholarships.com. Avoid websites that require an application fee—these sites may try to rip you off. 
  • Ignoring Student Loan Debt – Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring your student loans. While you may defer your payments, interest is still accumulating, which can add up quickly. Consider paying the interest while you’re still in school. Learn your repayment options and what’s best for you.
  • Abusing Credit Cards – Like student loans, credit cards can be a means to living a life you feel you deserve. It can help fund your lifestyle until you’re making the money to do so. The problem with that thought process is you may never make that large salary you think you’re going to.
  • Going into Debt to Get Married – The average wedding can cost upwards of $30,000. Depending where you live and what your expectations are, that could actually be a modest estimate. Too many 20-somethings go into debt to fund their wedding. Dealing with debt isn’t the way to start your marriage. Instead, cut your wedding budget to something you can afford. If you can’t cut it down, then save up for it instead and postpone your big day until you can afford it.
  • Overpaying in Rent – You are finally out of your parent’s house and your tiny college apartment, so you might be tempted to opt for that fabulous first apartment of your dreams. Shop around, and only get a rent you can actually afford. In fact, you might want to opt to go even under budget to put that extra money towards your student loan debt or saving it for a rainy day.

Area Conservation Event

  • Kids Fishing Day

Location: Bennett Spring State Park
Date: Saturday, May 2
Time: 6:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.

The Missouri Department of Conservation proudly presents Kid’s Fishing Day, May 2, at Bennett Spring State Park. Young anglers will have opportunities to catch fish and learn about fishing at Bennett Spring Kid’s Fishing Day. A designated fishing area will be reserved for youths age 15 and under. Limited fishing equipment will be available on a first-come basis to borrow, so children are encouraged to bring their own. Lunch will be available for the children 15 and younger from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. If there are any questions, please call the hatchery at (417) 532-4418.