Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. On this date in 1945, Nazi Germany officially surrendered, ending the war in Europe (Victory in Europe, VE Day). The 2020 Regular Session is fast drawing to a close, but the General Assembly is working hard to keep the state operational. Several bills were heard in committee, perfected on the House floor, and passed to the Senate. We also completed the budget and a tax bill. The details of these bills follow.
House and Senate Give Final Approval to Budget (HBs 2001-2013)
Members of the House and Senate gave final approval to a balanced state spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. The House and Senate had each approved versions of the budget since returning to the Capitol on April 27, but were able to conference to reach agreement on an operating budget that was approved by the constitutional deadline of Friday, May 8. Unfortunately, the state’s economy has been declining because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data released Thursday shows April revenue collections for the current year dropped more than 54 percent compared to April of last year. Of course, much of this is due to the tax filing deadline being moved from April to July, the state overall has seen a revenue drop of 6 percent for the current year compared to the same time in 2019. Because of the drop in revenues, budget leaders in the House and Senate worked together to determine that approximately $700 million would need to be trimmed from the proposed budget offered by the governor in January. They opted to take the bulk of those savings by eliminating new decision items that had been recommended before the pandemic. This approach allowed lawmakers to balance the budget with a minimal impact to existing state services. The final version of the FY 2021 state spending plan keeps funding for K-12 education almost entirely preserved at its current funding level in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. Colleges and universities also have a path to avoid spending cuts if federal funds related to the pandemic are triggered as expected this summer. Budget negotiators also prioritized additional dollars to ensure stable funding for the state’s community colleges.
The budget approved by both chambers also provides additional spending flexibility for the governor if federal funds become available. The plan authorizes up to an additional $2 billion in spending authority for K-12 public schools should additional federal funds become available to support education. Additionally, it authorizes another $54.6 million in funding from the federal CARES Act for emergency education relief funds. The funds can be used for K-12 education, higher education, or any combination of the two the governor may choose. The budget also includes another $304 million in spending authority for the governor for public two-year and four-year institutions should federal funds become available to support them.
Other important items in the budget include:
·$1.25 billion in federal funds and 200 FTEs for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to provide support and assistance to state and local government agencies responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
·$31.5 million in new federal funds to help the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DOLIR) through its Division of Employment Security to provide timely assistance to those impacted by COVID-19.
·$22.1 million in federal funds to DOLIR for “Shared Work” benefits and managing the department’s COVID-19 related expenses.
·$11.4 million in federal funds to the Department of Public Safety to distribute Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) grants to fight COVID-19.
·$23.6 million in federal funds to the Department of Mental Health to provide statewide crisis counseling, suicide prevention and telehealth services.
·$13.3 million to the Department of Health and Senior Services to address Coronavirus preparedness and response.
·$185 million for child nutrition and food assistance programs.
·$33 million for meals and services for senior citizens through the Area Agencies on Aging.
·$4 million for the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program.
·$1.5 million to the Nursing Facility Quality Care Fund to improve nursing homes.
·$18 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides utility assistance for low-income Missourians.
·$2 million in new federal funds to increase Missouri’s low-income weatherization program.
·$12 million to increase access to broadband internet in underserved areas.
·$8 million increase to reimburse counties for housing prisoners in jails.
·$18.5 million of tourism funding for cooperative programs and advertising.
·$2 million to fund the Fast Track Scholarship for degree-seeking adults who qualify.
In total, the budget has an appropriation of $35,291,459,657:
·$10,011,743,473 in General Revenue
·$14,757,315,949 in Federal Funds
·$10,522,400,235 in Other Funds
The appropriations bills that make up the FY 2021 state operating budget now move to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
General Assembly Gives Final Approval to Legislation to Exempt Stimulus Payments from State Income Tax (SB 676)
House members took action this week to ensure the federal stimulus payments received by Missouri residents are exempt from state income tax. The provision is part of a larger Senate measure dealing with important property tax reforms. The sponsor of the provision said the goal is to protect everyone’s stimulus payments from Missouri income tax. The stimulus payments are not subject to federal income taxes, and the change approved by the House would enact a similar policy for Missouri tax law. The changes made by the House then went back to the Senate, which gave the measure unanimous approval. The bill now moves to the governor to be signed into law. It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives.