Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' first state budget targets higher education for more cuts — $160 million less than the current spending plan.
In effect, the Republican is continuing such cuts that he made shortly after taking office last month.
Greitens' general revenue budget, which funds most state services, calls for spending about $345 million more than in the current fiscal year. But acting state budget director Dan Haug said Thursday that a number of state departments will see a total of about $600 million less than what they currently receive.
The governor calls for spending about $350 million more for public education — kindergarten through 12th grade – but the increase would come from sources other than the general revenue budget.
Overall, Greitens is proposing a general-revenue budget of about $9.4 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The total proposed state budget is $27.6 billion. Most of that consists of federal money or other spending over which the governor and the General Assembly have little or no control. The federal money for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor and disabled, is about $10 billion.
Federal Medicaid money will cover 64.26 percent of the state's overall Medicaid budget, Haug said, a 1 percent increase from the current fiscal year. Still, the state's share of Medicaid spending, which is covered by general revenue, will increase by almost $107 million in the coming budget.
The governor's wants to raise the eligibility requirement for elderly and disabled people who now receive services in their own homes or in nursing homes. The move would affect 20,000 people, or about one-third of the 60,000 Missouri residents who currently qualify for the care. Haug said the change would save the state about $52 million a year.
Greitens' budget would trim the state workforce by close to 200 people. Haug said those are already vacant positions and that no layoffs are planned.
The state's Department of Agriculture would see its general revenue budget cut by more than two-thirds in the coming fiscal year— from $22 million to $6.7 million. Largely affected, Haug said, is reduced payments for the production of biodiesel fuel, which is generally made from corn.
The state House and Senate have until early May to craft a final budget for Greitens' approval, rejection or trims.
Governor accuses others for "a mess of our budget"
But in the short-term, legislators and the public may be more interested in the volatile language Greitens used in his cover letter introducing his budget.
“For decades, insiders, special interests, lobbyists and prior politicians have made a mess of our budget. They’ve let programs get more expensive, year after year — without ever asking if those programs are serving our citizens well. They’ve fought to protect their pet projects and their slice of the pie — without any sense of how their choices affect the people of Missouri ..."
Although Greitens replaced Democrat Jay Nixon as governor, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has been in charge of the state budget process for more than a decade.
Greitens’ overview takes note of several areas where he is proposing to increase spending. They include:
- Almost $100 million more for state mental health services, but it's funded by a similar increase in federal money because Missouri is among eight states chosen for a demonstration program under the federal Excellence in Mental Health Act.
- About $40 million for various state programs that provide services for children with special needs, or children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.
- $33.8 million to provide services for almost 1,500 more children and adults with developmental disabilities.
- About $11 million, mainly federal money, earmarked to coordinate state efforts to battle the opioid and heroin epidemic.
- $2 million more aimed at providing more cybersecurity for the state’s computer and data systems.
- $750,000 more to aid victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- About $3 million more for public safety, including about $700,000 for Tasers and body armor for state troopers, and $250,000 to set up a “Blue Alert’’ system to “bring swift justice to anyone who assaults a law enforcement officer.”
- $5.5 million more for state veterans’ homes and cemeteries.
Here's a chart from Greitens' budget summary showing where the state's general revenue money will come from:
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