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.
With three weeks left in the legislative session, Governor Jay Nixon (D) is urging lawmakers to fund veterans’ homes, pensions for the blind and other specific needs in the still-unfinished state budget.
Nixon told reporters today that nursing homes for military veterans are woefully underfunded in next year’s $24 billion spending plan, and that a separate bill needs to be passed to insure a dedicated funding source for the homes.
“Missouri’s veterans’ home(s) provide critical services for thousands of men and women who have served our country with honor and bravery," Nixon said. "Let me be clear, that bill must get to my desk without delay.”
The budget chairman for the Missouri House is not happy with the Senate’s decision early Wednesday morning to restore $28 million for blind pensions.
An amendment by State Senator Jim Lembke (R, Lemay) reversed the cut that the House wanted to use for Higher Education. State Rep. Ryan Silvey (R, Kansas City) authored the original cut, stating that the pension program is for blind residents who have too much money to be on Medicaid. He calls the Senate’s actions puzzling.
The Missouri Senate passed a $24 billion state budget early this morning, following several hours of debate and closed-door negotiations.
The Senate spending plan for FY2013 directly challenges the Missouri House's position on blind pensions. By a narrow margin, Senators restored $28 million in state funding cut by the House last month, while leaving in $18 million in federal Medicaid dollars. Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) says they now have more room to maneuver when negotiations with the House begin on the final version of the budget.
The Republican from Cape Girardeau had promised weeks ago that he would block the budget over its use of one-time funds to fill holes in next year’s spending plan. Gradually throughout the evening, other fiscally conservative Senators joined in, including Jim Lembke (R, Lemay), Rob Schaaf (R, St. Joseph), and Luann Ridgeway (R, Smithville).
Early on, Crowell spent part of the filibuster lampooning the Missouri House for cutting pensions for the blind.
Though they waited until the last possible minute in the current session, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen has approved a measure that lays the ground for reforms to the pension system for its firefighters.
A Missouri House committee has unanimously passed a bill that would make cuts to firefighter pensions in St. Louis, but not before committee members made a few changes to the legislation.
New St. Louis firefighters would pay in 9 percent of their salaries, instead of 8 percent as originally proposed, and applicants would have to disclose any pre-existing injuries and conditions before being hired. New hires would still get back 25 percent of what they pay in as originally proposed. It’s sponsored by State Rep. Mike Leara (R, Sunset Hills).
Budget writers in the Missouri Senate have passed that chamber’s version of the state budget for next year.
The Senate plan is about $86 million smaller than the version passed by the House last month. Cuts include $13 million from child care provider grants, $7 million from other childcare services, and $1 million from meals at state prisons. Budget Chairman Kurt Schaefer (R, Columbia) acknowledges that many of the cuts target Medicaid.
“We’re gonna add language that everyone in that program has to go through Medicaid eligibility, so that we determine who is Medicaid eligible and who’s not…that’s the first threshold," Schaefer said. "The second is we’re gonna put in language to establish a premium.”