Legislative Column for the Week of March 19, 2015

This graphic is from Fiscal Year 2015.

JEFFERSON CITY — This week the Senate Appropriations Committee began working on the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. The House approved the state’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget at $26 billion late last week. While I do not serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I did serve on the House Budget Committee, and I keep a very close eye on the budget to ensure the state is spending your taxpayer dollars wisely.

Once the budget is voted out of committee it will then go the full Senate, return to the House and finally end in conference between the two chambers. According to the Missouri Constitution, the General Assembly must pass the budget by the first Friday after the first Monday in May (May 8 this year).

The House passed their version of the budget about three weeks earlier than usual, which means budget work in the Senate can begin sooner as well. In recent years, the Legislature and the governor’s office have had many disagreements about the governor’s line-item vetoes. By passing the budget early, the General Assembly will have the opportunity to vote on veto overrides if the governor uses the line item to withhold education and other funds.  

The budget currently sits at $26.1 billion and would take effect on July 1, the first day of Fiscal Year 2016.

The budget has increasingly become a tug-of-war between increased Medicaid spending (due to increased healthcare costs, not due to adding recipients) and a decrease in education spending. Funding education and working towards a fully funded Foundation Formula, is key priority of mine and of most Senators.  When the budget arrived to the Senate Appropriations Committee, it was drafted to include $70 million increase for the Foundation Formula for a total allocation of $3.26 billion in funding, but the Foundation Formula would still not be fully funded. There was also an additional $2.5 million for the early childhood education program, Parents as Teachers.

The House version of the budget also includes $9 million more for higher education than the governor’s budget suggested. Though it is a substantial increase, that figure is $300 million less than higher education received for funding in 2001. The Higher Education Department budget for next year contains more than $1.2 billion, $922 million of which is made up of state funds, $3.6 million from the federal government and nearly $342 million from other sources.

The current draft of the FY 2016 budget includes no Medicaid expansion.

Properly funding education is crucial for securing the future of our state and for the future of our children and grandchildren. If we are faced with a trade-off between welfare and education, then I will choose education every time because a better future for our state will be built through the next generation working hard, not through handouts.

Look for more updates on the state budget in upcoming weeks.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.