With a Friday deadline looming, Missouri lawmakers finally reached a compromise on putting the final touches on the state budget.
The agreement addresses veterans’ homes, university funding and other sticking points: First, budget negotiators agreed to spread an additional $3 million among several universities, including Southeast Missouri State, and dropped a proposal to give $2 million to that school alone. Also, lawmakers will have to craft a Higher Education funding formula by the end of next year, which would be implemented in July 2014.
As a result, State Senator Jason Crowell (R, Cape Girardeau) stopped blocking the entire Senate with procedural moves, which allowed the passage of a bill to fund veterans’ homes with casino fees. Other threats to the bill, including a ratings system for early childhood programs, were also resolved. Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) was the chief negotiator for the Senate.
“It’s inevitable that somebody wants to pull a string here or there, and you just have to deal with that," Schaefer said.
House and Senate negotiators also reached a deal on a health care program for the blind – participation will be limited to those earning up to three times the federal poverty level, or around $33,000 a year for an individual. Those earning more would have to pay a premium. Ryan Silvey (R, Kansas City) led budget negotiations for the House.
“So now they’ll have to obviously means-test those that are on the program," Silvey said. "If you make over 300 percent, which by the way is over $57,000 a year for a family of three, if you’re making more than that then you’re not gonna qualify for the program.”
The Governor's Office is already throwing cold water on the blind health care agreement. Communications Director Sam Murphy made the following statement Wednesday:
“We are pleased that the conference committee has restored full funding authority for this vital lifeline for blind Missourians, but the attempt to place additional limitations on eligibility through the budget process does not change existing law – and is invalid. We will ensure that this program continues to serve all 2,800 needy, blind Missourians who depend on it.”
Meanwhile, language designed to shut down the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life at the University of Missouri - St. Louis was removed from both the veterans’ homes and higher education budget bills. Lawmakers are planning to pass the $24 billion state budget Thursday, although they have until Friday to do so.