Budget hearings have begun in the Missouri Senate, and already there are notable differences with the House in where that chamber wants to make cuts.
While the House budget would give state workers earning less than $70,000 per year a two percent raise, the Senate version would limit those raises to workers making less than $45,000 per year. Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.
This one would raise it to 75 percent of the current national average – in other words, from 17 cents per pack to $1.09-1/2 cents per pack. Missouri’s tax per pack would also rise or fall as the national average changes, and it would require a referendum by Missouri voters to take effect. The bill was filed by State Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford (D, St. Louis), who spoke in favor of raising the cigarette tax during budget debates on Thursday.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer said Wednesday he does not intend to follow Nixon's recommendation. The Columbia Republican says the cut would be a huge blow to higher education.
Missouri lawmakers will be trying to plug a half-billion-dollar gap in next year's budget when they convene their 2012 session on Wednesday.
State budget director Linda Luebbering says much of the hole is due to a reduction in federal money, such as stimulus funds and Medicaid payments. However, State Senator David Pearce (R, Warrensburg) suggests that that number is not set in stone.
“There are predictions anywhere from $400 to $900 million, (that could) be our shortfall for this upcoming year," Pearce said. "How do you fill that? It’s gonna be tough.”
The federal government should pay 100 percent of the cost of flood damage in Missouri – according to some members of the Missouri Senate.
Normally, the feds pick up the tab for disaster response and later bill the affected state government 25 percent of the cost. State Senator Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) says Missouri should not have to pay, since the floods in the Show-Me State were the federal government’s fault.
The Senate’s $23.2 billion spending plan cuts the state’s higher education budget by 4.8 percent, and provides an additional $20 million for school bus funding. Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) sponsored the budget bills in the Senate.