The legislature returned from spring break this week and was focused on completing the state budget and sending it to the Senate. The budget is covered in detail below. Also, today, members of the House welcomed more than 120 Vietnam veterans to the Capitol to be honored for their service to our country in observance of Vietnam Veterans Day! For nearly two hours, House members brought more than 100 veterans onto the House floor to honor and thank them for their service. It was my pleasure to present Gale O’Dell of La Monte and his brother, Kenneth O’Dell of Sedalia, with House Resolutions commending their military service during the Vietnam War. Gale was a Specialist 4 for two years in the United States Army and Kenneth was an E5 Sergeant, also in the Army.
Fiscally Responsible Spending Plan Heads to the Senate (HBs 2001 – 2013)
House members worked late into the night Tuesday to give initial approval to a fiscally responsible spending plan that makes a record investment in K-12 education. The House then gave final approval on Thursday to the 13 appropriations bills that make up the $28.1 billion state operating budget for Fiscal Year 2019.
The House Budget Committee Chairman has said the conservative spending plan is based on a sensible consensus revenue estimate that will avoid shortfalls that could force the governor to withhold funds. This year’s budget plan enforces fiscal discipline by holding welfare spending in check. It also includes a budget reserve of $100 million to allow for emergency spending needs. Additionally, the House version of the budget rejects a plan endorsed by the governor to borrow $250 million to expedite tax refunds.
The Budget Chairman praised the budget for its commitment to transparency. In addition to eliminating all “E”s, which represent open-ended spending limits on funds, the spending plan improves transparency in several other key areas. The budget approved by the House breaks down spending for the state’s legal expense fund, which previously had no system in place to track how dollars are spent to pay for settlements and judgments against state agencies. In addition, the spending plan improves transparency for spending within the state’s conservation department, and for dollars allocated to home-delivered meals. The budget also makes a $34-million fund in the Department of Corrections transparent and accountable for the first time.
The House version of the budget makes a record investment in K-12 education by fully funding the school foundation formula, which included new funding for early childhood education. In total, the House plan increases funding for the foundation formula by $98.9 million. Included in that figure is $48 million in new funding for pre-K education for low-income children. With this plan, the legislature would fully fund the foundation formula in back-to-back years for the first time in a generation.
The state operating budget as it leaves the House also restores $68 million in cuts proposed by the governor to higher education. The restoration of funding comes in conjunction with a pledge by the state’s universities and colleges to raise tuition by no more than 1 percent. Schools must hold to that pledge as long as they receive the funds allotted for them in the budget. If for some reason the funds would be withheld, the schools would be allowed to increase tuition by the rate of inflation. The agreement is a reflection of the commitment of House members to hold down the cost of higher education for students and families.
In total, the $28.1 billion spending plan is approximately $650 million smaller than the plan proposed by the governor. The budget would utilize roughly $9.4 billion in state general revenue dollars, which is approximately $400 million less than the governor called for in his budget proposal.
Other highlights of the FY 2019 Budget include:
- Restoration of cuts proposed by the governor for several of the state’s cooperative higher education programs, including the Cooperative Medical School Program with MU and Missouri State; the Cooperative Dental Program with UMKC and MU; and the Cooperative Engineering Program with Missouri S&T and Missouri State.
- Funding increases recommended by the governor for the state’s scholarship programs including a $2 million increase for Access Missouri, $3.5 million in additional funds for the A+ Scholarship Program; and an additional $1 million for Bright Flight.
- $2 million increase in funding for the Missouri SkillUP Program that provides free job training and employment opportunities for low-income Missourians.
- $2.25 million increase in funding for K-12 transportation.
- $300,000 in new funding for school safety grants.
- $8.5 million increase in funding for the First Steps Program that provides services to families with children, birth to three years of age, with disabilities or developmental delays.
- $1.8 million increase in funding for the state’s independent living centers, which help people with disabilities to increase their independence and their opportunity to participate in day-to-day life within their communities.
- $4 million in new funding for Missouri’s Access to Recovery program, which helps individuals and families struggling with substance use disorders and provides the tools needed for long-term recovery.
- $5 million in new money to provide community-based services that will allow those battling substance abuse to receive appropriate treatment as an alternative to prison.
- $500,000 funding increase for the state’s drug treatment courts.
- $2.5 million in funding to extend MO HealthNet benefits for pregnant women who are receiving substance abuse treatment within 60 days of giving birth for up to 12 additional months.
- $9.8 million in new money to increase provider reimbursement rates to improve access to services to those with developmental disabilities.
- $1 million increase for the Missouri Technology Corporation, which promotes entrepreneurship and fosters the growth of new and emerging high-tech companies.
- $1 million increase in funding for the state’s public libraries.
- $400,000 restoration of funds for the Missouri National Guard to prevent several armories from being closed.
- $4 million in funding to make good on the state’s commitment to the Biodiesel Producer Incentive Fund
The budget bills now head to the Missouri Senate for consideration. The two chambers will need to agree on a final version of the state spending plan by May 11, which is the constitutional deadline for budget approval.
Providing Help to Mothers Battling Substance Abuse (HB 2280, 2120, 1468 & 1616)
The Missouri House gave final approval this week to legislation that would expand MO HealthNet benefits for pregnant women to provide substance abuse treatment for up to one year after giving birth. The bill represents a bipartisan, collaborative effort to extend Medicaid benefits for postpartum substance abuse treatment.
The bill’s projected cost is more than $4 million through 2021, but some note the change would save the state money that would have gone to caring for children who could go to state care if their mothers aren’t afforded treatment. The budget approved by the House this week includes money to pay for the projected costs to extend this coverage.
The bill has been sent to the Senate for its consideration. If it becomes law, the state will have to seek a waiver from the federal government to allow for the program to be created and implemented. Missouri would be the first state to seek such a waiver.
Bills Headed to the Governor’s Desk
- HB 1465 will give higher education institutions greater flexibility to offer degrees that meet the needs of their local communities and businesses. In effect, it will create a framework that will streamline the way public universities and community colleges reform their degree offerings and approve new programs. The new system will encourage institutions of higher learning to collaborate and will help to eliminate program duplication. The bill will allow community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in certain programs of need within their communities. It also creates a method for four-year institutions to expand their professional doctorate degree offerings. All 22 of Missouri’s higher education institutions have agreed to the plan.
- HB 1838 will authorize and empower the governor to convey all interest in specific property, described in the bill, located in Jefferson City, Missouri.
- HB 1504 will allow the governing bodies or county planning commissions in Newton and McDonald counties to adopt ordinances regulating incompatible land uses and structures within any or all the unincorporated area extending up to 3,000 feet outward from the boundaries of any National Guard training center if the county has participated in the completion of a joint land use study associated with the training center.
- HB 1531 will modify the circumstances in which a party may be joined in a civil action. The bill will allow an insurance company to use an interpleader to defend the insured and pay its policy limits.
Bills Headed to the Senate
HB 2274 would reauthorize the DeMolay license plate.
HB 2216 would specify that Missouri law includes systems for potable water and that all Missouri landowners have the right to have, use, and own systems for rainwater collection anytime and anywhere on their own property, including land within city limits.
Today, the House celebrated Vietnam Veterans Day by presenting House Resolutions to more than 100 Missouri veterans. I was honored to present Gale O’Dell of La Monte (left) and his brother, Kenneth O’Dell of Sedalia (right), with House Resolutions commending their military service during the Vietnam War. All of the veterans in attendance ended the event by gathering for a picture in front of the Speaker’s dais as the members of the Missouri House offered their thanks and applause (center).
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.