House gives first-round approval to Missouri budget, restores funding for meals program

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri House has given first-round approval to the state budget for next year.

The amended spending plan restores funding for Meals on Wheels, which provides food to the elderly, but it does not include a proposal by Governor Jay Nixon to expand health care to tens of thousands of low-income parents and children.

During debate, Republican House Member Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph compared so-called big government health care to slavery.

"Now what's the role of government, Mr. Speaker? Is it to enslave the taxpayers and make us work for the benefit of someone else who could work?"

Schaaf's analysis offended Black Caucus member Kiki Curls of Kansas City. She also questioned the GOP leaders' priorities during floor debate.

"We still have an insatiable thirst to spend, we just do not want to spend it on the poor," Curls said. "We have for-profit companies that are operating in our state buildings for free, rent free and lease free, in these tough economic times."

A final House vote on the budget is scheduled for Thursday. Passage would send the bills to the Missouri Senate.