Budget Includes a Record Funding Increase to K-12 Education, Restores Cuts to Higher Education and Includes State Employee Raises
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri Senate sent the nearly $28 billion dollar operating budget back to the Missouri House of Representatives this week. The only Constitutional mandate for the Missouri State Legislature is to pass an on-time, balanced budget. Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said it’s always a delicate balancing act making sure we are spending taxpayers’ money effectively and efficiently while still taking care of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“It’s not an easy task deciding which line-items to fund,” said Richard. “However, I stated from the very beginning we were going to fund higher education and elementary and secondary education. The budget committee worked hard, and Sen. Brown with his talented staff and hard-working committee made that happen.”
The Senate position puts $68 million back into higher education for community colleges and four-year institutions, funds originally cut by the governor. It also includes $10 million for the University of Missouri’s Cooperative Medical School expansion.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said there were two budget items he considered in a state of crisis this year, higher education funding and funding for in-home and nursing home care.
“Not only did the Senate restore the cuts to higher education proposed by the governor, we also restored a 1.5 percent provider rate cut made last year by the governor to in-home health care and increased nursing home reimbursement rates.” said Brown. “One of my priorities is to continue funding those programs that protect the state’s most vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled in our state.”
Also included in the Senate’s budget is a record increase in funding to the Foundation Formula by an additional $48 million. By funding DESE at this level, the state will reach the State Adequacy Target. This target is the dollar amount invested in each student to ensure they are educated adequately by funding Missouri’s districts equitably. The Senate position also increases school transportation funding by $25 million.
“In the past few years, we have actually shortchanged transportation, which could eventually lead to a lawsuit,” said Brown. “Transportation funding is especially important for our rural school districts. If we continue decreasing transportation funding, it hurts every public school student. That’s why we made an increase in funding for school transportation another priority this year.”
The budget includes pay increases for the more than 50,000 Missouri state employees. The Senate also approved a $61.2 million increase in the amount the state pays for the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan (MCHCP), the state employee benefits plan.
“If we do not put more money into the plan, we run the risk of dramatic premium increases,” said Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City. “That comes at a cost to our state employees, and it effectively cancels out the raises for those employees built into the budget. Preventing these premium increases and protecting the pay raises for state employees was a priority of mine as well as many of my colleagues.”
The Senate will still need to conference with the House on most of the budget bills before they are sent to the governor. 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. For more on these bills and others, visit www.senate.mo.gov.