Although no one got everything they wished for, the Missouri General Assembly gave final approval to a state spending plan that fully funds the Foundation Formula for K-12 education for the first time. The legislature had until Friday, May 5 to get the operating budget across the legislative finish line, and final negotiations between the House and Senate took several days before finally resolving on Thursday. The budget that now heads to the governor’s desk invests approximately $27.7 billion in the state’s priorities while also dealing with the reality of sluggish revenue growth.
Lawmakers started the budget process with the challenge of finding a way to bridge a $500 million funding shortfall. The final version of the plan bridges that gap while also providing record levels of funding for K-12 education; funding necessary to protect Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens; and an additional $198 million on the bottom line for emergency and supplemental expenses, including additional expenses related to Medicaid growth.
The decision to fully fund the School Foundation Formula was put forth as the top priority for the House Budget Chairman at the beginning of the budget process. The version of the budget passed out of the House included a funding boost of $48 million to achieve full funding. The Senate then planned to scale back the increase, but during debate on the Senate floor a majority of Senators voted to agree with the House and move forward with full funding for the first time since the formula was approved by lawmakers in 2005.
The formula was created to ensure each school district in the state has adequate funding to meet educational standards. It was meant to be implemented over a series of years and fully funded by 2013, but the economic downturn in the late 2000s and early 2010s caused revenue shortfalls that prohibited the legislature from achieving full funding. However, this year the budget has covered the gap.
Also included in this year’s budget is a partial restoration of a cut proposed by the governor to in-home care and nursing home services for some of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens. The governor had recommended increasing the eligibility requirements for these services, which would have resulted in approximately 20,000 seniors and disabled Missourians no longer qualifying for the state-funded care. The House then moved to fully restore them to their original levels so that no one would be cut off from care. The final version of the budget represents a compromise that increases requirements slightly, but also includes a provision that would restore all of the proposed cut if the Senate passes the Senior Services Protection Fund that was approved by the House earlier in session.