Breaking the Logjam
The past week in the Missouri Senate has brought significant accomplishment and incredible frustration. First, the good news. We finally broke through a logjam of filibusters that had brought Senate activity to a standstill. This week, the General Assembly truly agreed and finally passed the first bill of the 2022 session. House Bill 3014 is a supplemental budget that will direct nearly $2 billion to Missouri schools and fund Medicaid for the rest of the year.
At $4.6 billion, HB 3014 is much larger than any supplemental budget in the past. That’s because this budget includes a variety of federal programs approved by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of this money will go directly to our K-12 classrooms. You can argue whether the federal government should be spending so much money, and I would be right there with you. But the fact is Congress made this money available for Missouri schools and we were in a “use it or lose it” situation. If we didn’t appropriate these federal dollars pretty quickly, those funds would go to other states. Schools all across Missouri were counting on this money, and had we not done our job, they would have been in a real bind.
The supplemental budget we passed this week also funds Medicaid for the rest of the fiscal year. The state’s Medicaid program has been burning through cash due to the expansion of the program that was approved by voters and enforced by the courts. At the current rate, MO HealthNet, the Medicaid program in Missouri, was expected to run out of money in March. It’s not just the expanded population of able-bodied adults that would have gone without Medicaid benefits. It was also seniors, who rely on the program. Passage of HB 3014 – again, paid for primarily with federal dollars – will ensure these folks get the services they need.
Aside from sending the supplemental budget to the governor this week, the Missouri Senate also passed legislation to renew the Fast Track Workforce Development Incentive program, and approved a measure that will put a state income tax rate cap before the voters. In my opinion, it should not have taken eight weeks for the Missouri Senate to pass its first bills. That’s the frustrating part of this past week.
For most of the past month, progress in the Missouri Senate has been blocked by a small group of senators who imposed their will on the rest of us. I’m not a person who believes the Legislature needs to or should pass a lot of bills, but there are some things we need to get done. Aside from appropriating the federal dollars contained in the supplemental budget, we need to finish the congressional redistricting map. Candidates began filing for upcoming elections this past week without knowing for sure what their districts were going to look like. This is a failure on our part.
My frustration reached the boiling point this week. I went to the floor of the Senate and requested a moment of personal privilege. I pleaded with fellow senators to put the pettiness and self-interest aside and to get to work. I told my colleagues the posturing and grandstanding has got to stop. I did not run for office to engage in political theater and I have more respect for my office than to make a mockery of it. It’s my sincere hope that this week’s progress was a sign that we’ve turned the corner. It’s time to put an end to the political games and start getting things done.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.