Missouri lawmakers send state budget to Gov. Nixon
With three weeks left in the 2015 legislative session, Missouri lawmakers have passed all 13 bills that make up the state's $26 billion spending plan for Fiscal 2016, which begins July 1.
The spending plan contains an extra $84 million in funding for K-12 schools but cuts social services by $46 million. The proposed budget also provides an extra $12 million to colleges and universities, with that funding being based on performance.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, handled the budget bills in the Senate. He told reporters Thursday he's confident that lawmakers can override any line item vetoes or temporary spending restrictions that Gov. Jay Nixon may make.
"Now, whether the governor will respect the vote of the people and what was passed in Amendment 10, and actually comply with something we override him on, I think that's the big question yet to be seen," Schaefer said.
When asked, Schaefer also said it's possible that Nixon could just ignore any overrides of his vetoes and tell his agency heads to not spend any money on those items.
"And I suspect he could also say, 'Sue me, I've only got 9 months left, or 6 months left,' however many at that point," Schaefer said.
Amendment 10, which was passed last fall, gives lawmakers the authority to override any spending decision made by the governor.
Nixon, a Democrat, released the following statement after the final budget bill was passed:
"Missourians deserve a state budget that is balanced, fiscally responsible and consistent with our values of supporting education and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. I thank the General Assembly for delivering the budget on time and answering my call to make responsible investments in K-12 classrooms, college affordability and mental health. "We will give the budget a careful, line-by-line review and take any actions necessary to ensure we maintain our strict fiscal discipline, protect our AAA credit rating and grow our economy."
House Democrats were less diplomatic in their assessment of budget negotiations. In a statement released Thursday, they accused Republicans of "jamming through a $26 billion budget that was negotiated in secret," approved by House and Senate conferees "in the dead of night" and presented to both chambers "hours later without providing lawmakers any opportunity to review it before being forced to vote."
"Republicans have abandoned fiscal responsibility in favor of political theater," said House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis. "With $26 billion of taxpayer money at stake, you would think GOP leaders would treat the process with the seriousness it deserves. Apparently, you would be wrong."
House Bill 10, which funds the Department of Health & Senior Services and the Department of Mental Health, was passed without the earlier proposed "lump-sum" budgeting model. Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, says, though, the bill still doesn't meet the needs of those struggling with the emotional trauma that came out of the unrest in Ferguson.
"There are people who have been treated like animals, and called animals and called monkeys ...," Chappelle-Nadal said in an emotionally charged discussion. "There are people who are trying to figure out why is it important to live anymore."
She continued, "I feel hopeless, because I cannot serve my constituents with what they really need, which is mental health services ... they are hurting, they are crying, and they don't know what to do."
Chappelle-Nadal had asked for an extra $1 million for mental health funding for Ferguson residents, but was turned down. She noted that a $20 million natural disaster request was included in the proposed state budget, but told fellow senators that the unrest in Ferguson was a "human disaster" that warrants attention.
Some Republican senators objected to the removal of language in House Bill 5 that would have barred the use of bond funds from the Edward Jones Dome to help pay for a new NFL stadium in St. Louis. They are concerned that Nixon will extend the bonds without voter approval. House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town & Country says voter approval is necessary.
"My position has been exactly the same as it has been from Day 1 on this," Diehl told reporters, "that any new sports facility is subject to a vote by the voters of St. Louis City and County and the governor should come to the general assembly for any authorization of that."
Meanwhile, Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, says he'll file a constitutional objection to Senate Bill 5 because the anti-stadium language was stripped out during Wednesday night's negotiations.
Schaaf also objected to the expansion of managed care across the state, as House Bill 11 would move around 200,000 Medicaid patients into managed care systems.
"As a physician, I've dealt with managed care for 20-30 years," Schaaf said to Schaefer during final floor debates. "I know in my heart that putting all these people on managed care is not gonna save the state money."
"There is some growth, there's no doubt about it, in managed care, (but) there is more growth, I believe, in (Medicaid's) fee-for-service (system)," Schaefer responded. "So why don't we do this for a couple of years and see if it works?"
Nixon has 15 days to sign the budget bills into law, and to make whatever line-item vetoes and temporary restrictions he deems necessary. If the budget had been passed one week before the end of session as usual, the governor could have waited until June 30 to sign the budget. Lawmakers will now have the opportunity to override any vetoes and temporary withholds before the 2015 session ends.
Ray Howze and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport