As mentioned over the last few weeks, the Chair of the Policy Development Caucus, Representative Jeff Messenger, has been touring the state gathering feedback from Missourians about road funding options. In a continuing effort to keep you informed, this week I will discuss two additional funding options, consumer price index on motor fuel and a general sales tax increase, in the first section of this week’s report.
In other news, as you may remember this past July, Governor Grietens established a new prescription drug monitoring program by executive order. It included a $250,000 no-bid contract with Express Scripts, under which that company provides data to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Legislators on the budget committee were and remain frustrated that the administration created and found a way to pay for that program without their input or approval. Recently, the House Budget Committee met to examine the methods used by the executive branch to create a new prescription drug monitoring program. The hearing resulted in several members taking issue with the way the program was created. More on this in the second section of this week’s report.
Transportation Funding Options
This week I’ll begin with by continuing to outline options available for increased funding of transportation in Missouri. Unfortunately, increased funding means increased taxes and/or fees somewhere. Therefore, to receive your thoughts on the matter, some options are being publicly discussed to find these revenue sources. Again, I am not endorsing any particular option, but rather I present these to get your feedback. No decisions have been made, so your opinion is valuable!
One potential option being considered is pegging to the consumer price index (CPI) on motor fuel. Using a 2.2% 15-year average, the total revenue generation equates to somewhat over $15 million annually. These increases would come in the form of a “user fee” according to Chairman Messenger, which means it could be passed solely by the legislature.
Another funding option is to increase the general sales tax. This option would be a ballot issue, subject to voter approval. The estimated yield from increasing the general sales tax by 0.25% equals more than $175 million, while one-percent increase yields more than $700 million in additional funding. (These revenue numbers exclude an increase on the vehicle sales tax). Additional transportation funding options will be discussed in future reports.
Please send your thoughts and/or proposals to: DEAN.DOHRMAN@HOUSE.MO.GOV . Your thoughts concerning this issue are very important to the future of our state.
House Budget Committee Members Take Issue with the Methods Used to Create a New Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
The House Budget Committee met recently to examine the methods used by the executive branch to create a new prescription drug monitoring program. The hearing resulted in several members taking issue with the way the program was created.
The governor created the program with an executive order issued in July. It includes a $250,000 no-bid contract with Express Scripts, under which that company provides data to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The Department uses that data to try to identify prescription drug abusers.
Legislators on the budget committee are frustrated that the administration created and found a way to pay for that program without their input or approval. Criticism came from both supporters and opponents of prescription drug monitoring with those on both sides saying their problem was not with the program the governor launched, but with how he launched it. One member of the committee noted that it looks bad for the new program to have been announced at a time when the governor has withheld money from other state programs, and after the legislature refused to fund many things saying the state is in a tight budget year. Another member of the House Budget Committee pointed out that the administration circumvented the legislature’s authority and used money that could have supported other state needs, including some the legislature voted to pay for but then later saw the governor withhold the funding.
The Office of Administration’s budget director told legislators the money came from additional federal funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that the state had not anticipated it would get. He said the administration was free to use that money as it saw fit, and used it to address what it sees as a crisis: prescription drug abuse. (Federal monies typically have a percentage dedicated to administrative fees.)
One Democratic member said it was “extremely frustrating” that CHIP money was used without any approval or authorization from the legislature. She said, “I hope that as you all continue to come up with these new ideas to address this crisis that you bring them to us before you start moving money around.”
The House Budget Committee Chairman suggested the administration should not move forward with its drug monitoring program, and to instead bring it as a proposal to the legislature during the next budget process. He urged administration officials to halt the transfer of that CHIP money to pay for the program, and to not sign a contract with Express Scripts. He called the use of that money, without the legislature’s approval, a “breach of trust.”
Convoy Honors America’s Veterans
Missourians who live along historic Route 66 were recently reminded of the important contributions made by America’s veterans. The “longest veterans parade in America” made up of 60 vintage military vehicles made its way through the Show-Me State as part of a 2,400 mile multi-state tour sponsored by the Military Vehicle Preservation Association, the convoy is made up of jeeps, ambulances, and trucks that were used to transport soldiers and supplies during World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
Meant to celebrate veterans and demonstrate how the Army utilized its vehicles, the convoy started in Wheaton, Illinois on September 16 and will conclude in Santa Monica, California on October 14. The group covers between 100 and 180 miles each day at an average speed of roughly 35 miles per hour. During its trip through Missouri, the convoy made stops in many communities including St. Louis, St. Clair, Sullivan, Cuba, St. James, Rolla, Ft. Leonard Wood, Marshfield, Ozark, Branson, Mt. Vernon, and Carthage.
About two-thirds of convoy members are veterans. As the convoy commander said, the effort is an important way to reach out to the public to preserve history and celebrate veterans.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.