On the latest edition of the Politically Speaking podcast, St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum chats with House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick.
The Republican lawmaker from Shell Knob represents the 158th District, which takes in portions of Lawrence, Stone and Barry counties in southwest Missouri. State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, appeared on Politically Speaking last week to provide the Democratic perspective about the legislature’s waning days.
Fitzpatrick played a major role in crafting Missouri’s budget, which he said was a more difficult task than usual this year because of declining state revenue. The finished product included a nearly 7 percent cut to higher education institutions, as well as removing in-home health care services from 8,000 low-income elderly and disabled people.
But the budget did fully fund the new K-12 foundation formula, which Fitzpatrick says will be a boon for school districts.
Among other things this week, the GOP-controlled House is expected to take up legislation making it more difficult for people to win employment discrimination lawsuits and a wide-ranging education bill, which includes a tax credit aimed at creating private school scholarships.
Here’s what Fitzpatrick had to say during the show:
He isn’t a fan of a Senate proposal to use leftover money in state accounts to restore in-home care services. “If we take the money from those funds this year, that money will be gone next year,” he said. “But the things that we’re spending that money on will have to be funded next year. So we’ll find ourselves back in this exact same position in one year that we find ourselves in right now.”
Fitzpatrick said the higher education reductions were tough to make, but added he doesn’t expect there to be a push to raise taxes to provide a more stable funding source for colleges and universities.
While the Missouri Senate has been wracked with Republican infighting, the House largely avoided squabbling. Fitzpatrick credits a strong GOP leadership team with helping the flow of legislation move smoothly. “Everybody in leadership is working well together,” he said. “And I think that translates well to the rest of the caucus in the House.”
Fitzpatrick appreciates that Greitens has taken a more hands-on approach with legislators than his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. But he warned that Greitens and his allies should avoid hardball tactics this week. “I think that it would probably be ill-advised if they were to launch additional attacks on specific legislators,” he said, alluding to online ads that a Greitens-aligned nonprofit ran against St. Joseph Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf. “I don’t think that would be a way to get things done in the last week of session. So hopefully they don’t do that.”
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Scott Fitzpatrick on Twitter: @FitzpatrickMO
Music: “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” by Arcade Fire