As the only freshman legislator on the Senate Appropriations Committee, I want to say that it has been an honor to see the workings — the nuts and bolts — of the appropriations process in the Senate. Of course, during my time in the House I served on appropriations and budget committees, and that experience was most useful in my transition to the Senate.
After many hours of debate, fiery discussion and provoking speeches, the Senate passed a state budget this week. The next step in the budget process will be a meeting of a conference
committee between members of both chambers to sort out the agreements and disagreements and reach a compromise regarding the state’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Should the committee offer a proposal, the proposal will go first to the House for approval and then to the Senate. After both houses approve the budget, it will go to the governor for his signature.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that both the House and Senate voted to fully fund the K-12 education funding formula for the first time in history. For more than a decade, the Legislature has considered fully funding our children’s public school systems. During my eight years in the Missouri House I said that I would support fully funding the foundation formula and this week that opportunity came to fruition. I am pleased that my colleagues and I took advantage of this opportunity to provide our children and schools the funding they need to succeed.
Moreover, the Senate budget includes $2 million for virtual education. I am a big supporter of virtual education. In fact, I have proposed legislative measures (please see Senate Bill 327 and Senate Committee Substitute for House Bill 138) that would allow students to enroll in online courses that may not be provided to them by their school districts. This action would expose our students to educational concepts and ideas that may give them the skills and knowledge for collegiate and workforce preparation.
In terms of timing, the Legislature has only a week from today to propose a measure from the conference committee and have it approved by both chambers before it can go to the governor for his signature. The Legislature is constitutionally bound to pass a balanced budget by May 5.