LEGISLATIVE REPORT April 4, 2018
Greetings from your state Capitol. Gainesville eighth graders, along with their teachers Sherry Patterson and Trevor Hicks, visited with me and toured the Capitol on March 26. I had a great visit with them and answered their very thought-provoking questions.
Last week the House passed to the Senate the following bills:
HB 2216 prohibits political subdivisions from restricting the rights of certain property owners with regard to water resources.
HBs 2280, 2120, 1468 and 1616 expands MO HealthNet benefits for pregnant women to provide substance abuse treatment for up to one year after giving birth.
HB 2274 modifies requirements for the Missouri DeMolay license plate.
In addition, we spent most of the week on budget bills. House members worked late into the night Tuesday, March 27, 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 committee 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.
As it leaves the House, the state operating budget also restores $68 million in cuts to higher education proposed by the governor. 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 House members’ commitment 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.
Complete bill information can be found on the House website at www.house.mo.gov.
As always, it is a privilege to represent you in state government.