Missouri state budget
8:29 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Mo. House Endorses State Budget, 3 Attempts To Expand Medicaid Fail, And Dept. of Revenue Targeted

The Missouri House has given first-round approval to the state budget for Fiscal Year 2014, while House Republicans beat back three attempts to expand Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion motions and amendments

The first attempt was made Tuesday morning, in the form of a motion to send House Bill 1 back to committee and add $940 million to it for Medicaid needs.  The motion was made by State Representative Jeff Roorda (D, Barnhart).

“We shouldn’t be leaving rural hospitals out in the cold, we shouldn’t be leaving our economy out in the cold," Roorda said.  "This would be the biggest economic boom of any of our legislative careers, make no mistake about that.”

The motion was defeated along a mostly party-line vote.  Then Tuesday night, two amendments were voted down which would have expanded Medicaid by about $944 million.  State Representative Rory Ellinger (D, University City) says without the expansion, the poor will continue to rely on emergency rooms as their primary caregivers.

“If you’re not having a heart attack, you’re gonna be given some pills and you’re gonna be sent home…and more and more people are gonna die,” Ellinger said.

State Representative Kevin Engler (R, Farmington) argued that expansion should not take place without reform.

“Why expand a system that’s broken, that even the proponents say there’s 25 to 30 percent fraud in the system," Engler said.  "Why should we expand that when we can reform it and do it right away?”

Engler also recalled his early years in the Missouri Senate, when he voted to pass deep cuts to Medicaid that were later signed into law by former Governor Matt Blunt (R).  He then challenged House Democrats over whether they'd be willing to cut 300,000 Missourians from the Medicaid rolls if in three years the federal government finds itself unable to cover the cost of Medicaid expansion.  That later led to a very heated exchange between Engler and Democrat Ed Schieffer of Lincoln County.

The Medicaid expansion amendments were sponsored by Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D, St. Louis).  Near the end of the debate he questioned some Republican lawmakers as to whether they used the health insurance policy offered as part of their legislative pay.  He said that it was "incredibly  hypocritical" of them to accept state-funded health insurance while turning down federal tax dollars to expand Medicaid coverage to more low-income Missourians.

The amendments were proposed for House Bills 10 and 11 -- they were defeated on an almost exact party line vote.  State Representative Chris Molendorp of Belton was the only Republican that joined Democrats in trying to add Medicaid expansion to the state budget.  All 13 budget bills face another round of votes by the full House, which is scheduled to take place Thursday.

Dept. of Revenue takes potential hit over scanned documents controversy

The Department of Revenue was targeted during Tuesday’s budget debates in the Missouri House over its practice of scanning documents for driver’s license and conceal-carry applications.  The GOP majority approved an amendment that would strip around $157,000 from the state agency’s budget, the estimated amount of money needed to scan source documents and retain electronic copies in a database.  The amendment was sponsored by State Representative Todd Richardson (R, Poplar Bluff).

“There’s no purpose to scanning these source documents, and without a purpose I don’t think we should in any way be creating a huge database of source documents that puts Missourians’ private information at risk,” Richardson said.

The risk cited by Republican lawmakers is that the information on the scanned documents, in particular conceal-carry applications, would be sent to Washington DC.  DOR Director Brian Long recently told a State House committee that his agency is not collecting data for the federal government.  Meanwhile, the Missouri Senate has issued a subpoena to the Department of Revenue to hand over all documentation related to its practice of scanning documents.

Flanigan pinch-hits for Stream

House Budget Chairman Rick Stream (R, Kirkwood) left Jefferson City between the morning and evening sessions after being told that his mother had suffered a stroke.  He initially planned to stay at the State Capitol and continue his duty of presenting budget bills on the House floor, but was urged by colleagues to return home.  House Speaker Tim Jones (R, Eureka) says Stream was driven back to the St. Louis area by the Missouri State Highway PatrolBudget Vice Chairman Tom Flanigan (R, Carthage) presented the budget bills on the House floor in Stream's absence.  A moment of silence was held for Stream and his family before budget debates resumed. 

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport