The Missouri House has started debating the $23 billion state budget for next year.
The tone of the debate continues to be mild, with Democrats holding the view that there’s not much money to fight over.
State Representative Ryan Silvey (R, Kansas City) chairs the House Budget Committee, and has been critical of Governor Jay Nixon (D) for withholding money from this year’s budget, primarily school bus funding. But Silvey admits the "withholds" made their job easier.
“(Gov. Nixon) basically told all of the departments if he’s withholding from them now, not to consider it for coming back next year, which addressed a large part of the (budget) gap," Silvey said.
That gap is estimated to be around $300 million. Still, some lawmakers argued that this year’s round of cuts will be very painful. State Representative Jeanette Mott Oxford (D, St. Louis) used a Bible verse to make her point.
“I'm reminded of the gospel of Matthew, sixth chapter, 'where your treasure is, there your heart will be'...we have chosen to put our treasure in Missouri in things like tax credits and in keeping our tax rates incredibly low, which has not produced (a) vibrant economy," Oxford said. "Instead, we ought to be putting our treasure with the needs of people who have mental illnesses, with the public health needs of our state, and with our senior citizens."
The House is expected to debate and pass all 13 budget bills by Thursday, after which they’ll go to the Missouri Senate.