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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri Legislature passes $4.6 billion budget for schools, state raises and Medicaid

This Missouri State Capitol on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021, in Jefferson City, Missouri.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri lawmakers passed a supplemental budget bill Thursday.

Updated Feb. 24 with the House passing the bill and the governor signing it

The Missouri legislature has passed a supplemental budget containing raises for state employees and almost $2 billion in federal funding for Missouri schools, as well as money to fully fund the state’s Medicaid program for the rest of the fiscal year, including its expansion.

The House on Thursday voted 133-12 to pass the $4.6 billion budget, about 15 hours after the Senate approved the same bill Wednesday night.

The Senate version made several changes to the original House bill, with one of the largest being to the state worker raise plan. Under the House version, the money for raises was reduced, with not all workers qualifying for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

The Senate restored the funding to Gov. Mike Parson’s original allotment but without setting any minimum wage, allowing departments to decide.

Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, who chairs the House Budget Committee, said he would work with state agencies on setting wages.

“It is not my intention that the state government should place the state workforce at an unfair competitive advantage over private employers,” Smith said. “And I have communicated that to various agencies throughout this process and will continue to do that as we work with them through the end of this fiscal year.”

The move to restore the raises had the support of Democrats. Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, praised the Senate’s actions before the vote.

“It never ceases to amaze me when, even with the epic dysfunction on the other side of this building, common sense succeeds sometimes better over there than over here,” Merideth said.

The bill is the first to pass the legislature in 2022. Parson signed the bill Thursday afternoon. He had wanted to pass the legislation by Feb. 1.

Original Story from Feb. 23:

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday approved a supplemental budget that includes funding for schools, state worker raises and Medicaid.

The budget bill, approved 25-7, was the first one passed by the Senate this session after weeks of acrimony, mostly over congressional redistricting, which is still pending.

Because changes were made by the Senate, the bill needs another vote from the House before going to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. The original goal from the governor’s office was to pass this budget by Feb. 1.

This bill contains a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment for all employees, along with enough funding for departments to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, if they choose.

While Parson’s initial proposal had enough funding for departments to raise the baseline wage to $15 an hour, the House modified that, only allocating enough money for some, but not all, minimum-wage employees to earn that amount. Others would have been paid $12 an hour.

“Basically we’re really wanting to say that we are giving you the ability to be able to hire folks in these much-needed areas, retain your employees and go to the market rate,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In addition to money for raises, the bill includes almost $2 billion in federal funding to go to schools. Missouri is one of the last states in the country to approve spending this money and has until March 24 to do so.

The budget bill also funds the state’s Medicaid program, including its expansion. One modification made by the Senate prohibits these dollars from going to clinics or other facilities that provide abortions, other than a hospital. It also stops funding to affiliates of facilities that provide abortions. Currently, no state funding is used to provide abortions.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, presented an amendment to the budget bill that would have stripped that modification.

She called the overall supplemental bill an important piece of legislation, but said this language would remove funding to Planned Parenthood and access to reproductive health care.

“This language continues to be put into our budget bill to make sure not only that we do not fund abortion, which we do not, this is not about abortion, this is about taking away contraception from low-income women around the state,” Schupp said.

Schupp and other senators also worried the provision could put Missouri out of compliance with federal law.

Despite the amendment failing, Democrats ultimately voted to pass the budget bill.

Another area of contention around the bill was a Senate committee’s decision to remove a new $75 million program to address learning loss due to the pandemic. Some committee members in favor of removing it said it needed more vetting before passing the chamber.

Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, who voted no on the overall bill, spoke on his disappointment that the program was taken out.

“I would hope that this chamber would understand that kids and families really need this, and not all school districts can handle this intense tutoring on top of the training for kids,” Brattin said.

Hegeman said there would be other opportunities to discuss the program in the future.

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