Missouri lawmakers wrap up state’s record $49 billion budget hours before deadline

The largest budget in Missouri history passed with relative ease on Friday, in part because the final version was larger than spending plans passed earlier in the House or Senate.

The total, just over $49 billion, includes big increases for school transportation, help for colleges and universities in the form of bigger budgets and more generous scholarships, nearly $1 billion to increase payments to medical and personal care providers and a $500 million plan for taxes. discounts.

The budget for the current year, including a supplementary spending bill passed Friday, is $40.9 billion.

The portion of general revenue — money that comes primarily from income and sales taxes — is $13.5 billion, up from $11 billion in the current fiscal year.

The only apparent uncertainty in the rapid series of votes that sent the 17 appropriations bills to Governor Mike Parson came from the bill allocating $2.9 billion in federal COVID-19 relief. After the Senate held its last vote of the day, the chamber was suspended in case further work was needed.

And though House members complain that they haven’t had a chance to load the bill with pet bills, like the Senate done with 67 reserved itemsthe bill passed the House 114-16 with 13 voting members “present”.

Rep. of State Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, speaks during the Friday, May 6, 2022 debate on the $49 billion state budget. (Photo by Tim Bommel courtesy of Missouri House Communications)

“We let the Senate go to the buffet and all we got was the croutons on the salad,” said state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis.

It wasn’t a satisfying process, but it produced a palatable product, said state Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, who chaired an interim committee that considered how the money should be spent.

“Is this something that’s going to put Missouri in a really good position for the next 40 or 50 years with some of these transformative projects? Yes.” Richey said during the debate.

The $49 billion total includes $500 million set aside for a tax refund program, or approximately half of what the House had requested. Excluding that item, the budget is about $30 million lower than the budget proposals sent to lawmakers by Gov. Mike Parson.

The House budget spent just under $48 billion, while the Senate plan was just under $49 billion. The final budget was about $1.1 billion above the House and $60 million above the Senate count.

Missouri has unprecedented amounts of excess general revenue, and the tax refund program will send up to $500 to single filers and up to $1,000 to married couples filing a combined return. To be eligible, filers must have an income of less than $150,000 per year for individuals and $300,000 for married couples.

State revenues are also growing at a healthy pace and appear likely to generate up to $2 billion in additional surplus revenue by the end of fiscal year 2023.

“When we return to session next year we will have a surplus in the public purse and if we are in the same situation I will advocate for the taxpayers to get that back,” Smith said.

The main budget items include:

  • $2.5 billion to pay for expanded eligibility under the Medicaid program.
  • $925 million to increase payments to providers serving people with developmental disabilities, nursing home patients and those who need help staying home through the Medicaid program.
  • $461 million for construction projects on 13 four-year college campuses, community colleges and the State Technical College of Missouri, paid for from federal COVID-19 aid. Each school is expected to match the state’s contribution to the building plan.
  • $411 million for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades, including projects to eliminate lead service lines.
  • $250 million to expand broadband Internet access for homes and businesses in remote areas.
  • $214 million to fully fund the state’s share of public school transportation costs.

There were also smaller credits that satisfied long-standing demands. Lincoln University, for first time in its history, will receive a state appropriation large enough to match all available federal land grant funds. And four-year colleges with pensions provided by the Missouri State Employees Retirement System, or MOSERS, received help to pay for the annual increase in contribution rates.

The budget also sets aside $500 million for deposit in the MOSERS fund to reduce the need for future increases in contributions.

Most budget bills received less than a dozen “no” votes in the House and less than half a dozen “no” votes in the Senate. In previous years, Democrats, who hold less than a third of the seats in each chamber, voted overwhelmingly against bills.

“I think this is my first year in the House where I will vote for all budget bills,” said state Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, who is in his sixth year in the legislature. “It’s hands down the best budget this state has ever seen, maybe ever, but definitely my time being aware of it.”

Bills spending Medicaid funds had the most votes against, primarily due to provisions to block Planned Parenthood from providing taxpayer-funded family planning services. But for Democrats who oppose that language, funding for the Medicaid expansion program has made it difficult to vote “no.”

In the House, the budget for the Department of Social Services passed 96-21 with 32 voting members present. In the Senate, the bill passed 22-10.

“We’re going to have people who won’t be able to access the birth control they need because they don’t have anywhere else yet to go,” said Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, “and perhaps they will fall victim to an unwanted pregnancy.

And while conservative Republicans can be expected to oppose a budget that plans to spend 65% more than the state did two years ago, the increases are helping businesses that provide health care. health and schools significantly.

Some Republicans have warned that the budget is spending too many surpluses on ongoing programs. Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, said reductions could occur in future years due to how one-time funding sources have been used.

“We’ll have to make tough decisions next year and the year after,” Hoskins said.

There were also some disappointments, mainly due to political opposition. Parson’s proposal to spend $70 million to develop a new state trail in Rock Island Rail Corridor failed to obtain approval and no request from Attorney General Eric Schmitt for an increase of $500,000 to his office budget.

The Rock Island Trail has strong support from environmental and recreational groups and opposition from landowners along the corridor and the Missouri Farm Bureau.

“We just had a lot of House members and senators who really struggled to get things done,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said during a briefing. post-session press conference.

More than 150 assigned credits have also reached the final budget, including nearly 100 in the regular operating budget in addition to those in the budget for US bailout funds.

Parson was quick to veto the money he didn’t recommend, and so every group funded in the budget now has to wait until the end of June to find out if they’ll actually get the money. .

Tessa Weinberg of The Independent staff contributed to this report.

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