Missouri Lawmakers Sends Budget to Nixon
April 23, 2015

(AP) – The Missouri Legislature has passed a $26 billion spending plan for next fiscal year.
The budget approved Thursday will cut spending for social services by about $46 million while increasing basic aid for K-12 schools by about $84 million compared to this year.
That increase still falls about $400 million short of what’s need to provide public schools with full funding.
More money will go to public colleges and universities. Lawmakers have proposed a 1.3 percent increase of $12 million in performance-based spending for those institutions.
State employees will not receive a pay raise. Efforts to block the governor from extending bond payments to pay for a new St. Louis football stadium also failed to make it into the budget.
The bill now needs approval from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

A look at the department spending totals authorized in the 2016 fiscal year budget passed Thursday by the Missouri Legislature, compared with the amounts included in the 2015 budget.
FY 2015 FY 2016
HB 1 – Public Debt
General Revenue $64,790,980 $59,199,900
Total $67,831,978 $61,948,734
HB 2 – DESE
General Revenue $3,146,905,980 $3,220,532,590
Total $5,863,862,371 $5,789,415,427
HB 3 – Higher Ed
General Revenue $928,930,254 $933,638,908
Total $1,272,140,013 $1,266,819,566
HB 4 – Revenue
General Revenue $84,817,692 $88,434,330
Total $506,493,497 $510,131,760
HB 4 – Transportation
General Revenue $16,094,129 $19,544,129
Total $2,172,720,379 $2,162,212,814
HB 5 – Office of Administration
General Revenue $175,979,939 $174,641,743
Total $502,233,461 $303,318,854
HB 5 – Employee Benefits
General Revenue $553,273,629 $552,246,544
Total $930,454,702 $933,738,426
HB 6 – Agriculture
General Revenue $10,449,767 $11,429,947
Total $37,377,686 $42,331,831
HB 6 – Natural Resources
General Revenue $9,858,085 $10,829,503
Total $558,319,893 $560,481,082
HB 6 – Conservation
General Revenue $0 $0
Total $148,119,522 $149,505,752
HB 7 – Economic Development
General Revenue $88,324,611 $80,948,436
Total $370,604,690 $362,460,962
HB 7 – Insurance
General Revenue $0 $0
Total $40,806,316 $40,668,920
HB 7 – Labor
General Revenue $2,363,480 $2,248,549
Total $185,640,013 $190,989,359
HB 8 – Public Safety
General Revenue $82,676,629 $69,471,854
Total $699,526,424 $734,682,088
HB 9 – Corrections
General Revenue $670,432,531 $661,290,269
Total $725,156,473 $710,168,328
HB 10 – Mental Health
General Revenue $705,514,408 $661,290,269
Total $1,753,047,699 $1,836,521,148
HB 10 – Health
General Revenue $286,713,941 $330,849,608
Total $1,181,112,711 $1,253,241,755
HB 11 – Social Services
General Revenue $1,532,947,954 $1,532,392,881
Total $8,655,534,883 $8,609,187,275
HB 12 – Elected Officials
General Revenue $50,632,537 $51,071,181
Total $123,769,927 $123,556,150
HB 12 – Judiciary
General Revenue $183,428,670 $183,058,930
Total $206,422,446 $208,131,056
HB 12 – Public Defender
General Revenue $39,739,909 $36,422,010
Total $42,847,492 $39,530,303
HB 12 – General Assembly
General Revenue $33,475,985 $34,438,373
Total $33,769,525 $35,732,378
HB 13 – Statewide Leasing
General Revenue $70,562,638 $71,014,354
Total $102,671,259 $102,991,759
Overall Budget
General Revenue $8,734,913,177 $8,854,825,360
Total $26,180,463,360 $26,027,765,727

Missouri Senate Passes Lump Sum Budget for 3 Agencies
April 2, 2015

(AP) – A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a budget plan that its chairman says will constrain the state’s fastest-growing costs.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a measure creating lump-sum grants for most programs in the Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health and Department of Health and Senior Services.

The proposal would reduce the totals for the Social Services department by 6 percent – or about $100 million – compared with the House’s version, and a combined 4 percent, about $30 million, for the others.

It would still be a net increase over the current budget. Committee chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer says the departments should be able to find efficiencies.

Missouri Legislature Snowed Out
February 16, 2015

(AP) – The Capitol will be quiet Monday because winter weather is in the forecast.
Missouri Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard says he’s calling off Monday’s session. Richard says the Senate won’t convene until 4 p.m. Tuesday. The Missouri House, meanwhile, is calling off all of Monday’s committee hearings.
The National Weather Service is predicting that a storm system will move into the state Sunday night. Snow accumulations of 3 to 6 inches are predicted across central Missouri, with 1 to 3 inches expected along the Missouri River.
The Legislature typically meets from Monday afternoon through Thursday afternoon.

How Far Will RTW Go?
February 12, 2015

(AP) – A statewide right-to-work measure passed in the Missouri House on Thursday, potentially setting the stage for an intense fight in the Senate where one Democrat who’s a retired union member said she would “fall on her sword” to block it.

The measure, approved 91-64 with two members present but not voting, would bar unions statewide from collecting fees from non-members. Final passage, after an initial vote in support on Wednesday, marks a political victory for Republican supporters who had failed to gain the needed constitutional majority last session for approval.

House Speaker John Diehl said it was a historic vote and that even if Missouri didn’t become a right-to-work state this year, it was “inevitable” and the issue would keep coming up until it does pass.

But getting it to the desk of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat who has said he opposes right-to-work, may be a challenge.

Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, would not say whether she would filibuster but noted that, as a retired union member, she strongly opposes the measure.

“I would absolutely fight that bill. It’s one of my core values and beliefs,” Walsh said. “To me, that’s a bill that I’m willing to fall on my sword for.”

Nixon’s SOTS: A call for “Healing & Hope”
January 22, 2015

(AP) – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon implored lawmakers to embrace policies that “foster healing and hope” Wednesday as he delivered his first State of the State address since the unrest that erupted over the fatal police shooting of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson.

Nixon acknowledged that the death of Michael Brown – and the sometimes violent protests that ensued – had focused the eyes of the nation on Missouri during the past year, prompting discussions about “race and equality, education and economic opportunity, law enforcement and the courts.”

“The legacy of Ferguson will be determined by what we do next to foster healing and hope and the changes we make to strengthen all of our communities,” Nixon said in a nearly 50-minute speech to a joint session of the House and Senate.

The Democratic governor called for an update to Missouri’s law on the police use of deadly force as he outlined an agenda that also includes an increase in funding for public schools, albeit one that would still fall hundreds of millions short of what is considered a fully funded system. Nixon also advocated for the consideration of a gas tax hike or tolls for aging highways, stronger ethics laws and a renewed call to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults.

Nixon’s proposed $26 billion budget for the 2016 fiscal year would keep spending relatively flat compared with the current year, a carryover effect from revenues that fell significantly short of expectations last year. He also asked lawmakers to approve $353 million of repairs and renovations at the Capitol, college campuses, state parks and office buildings under a bonding plan that legislators previously authorized.

Nixon has been criticized by some for his handling of the response to Brown’s shooting – first for not acting quickly enough to quell tensions between protesters and heavily armored police in August, and later for not preemptively deploying the National Guard to troubled spots in Ferguson when a grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson was announced in November.

During his remarks Wednesday related to Ferguson, Nixon said there often is “too much fear and too little trust.”

“Some folks feel they have to choose sides: Them or us. Teens or cops. Black or white,” Nixon said. He added: “The truth is real and lasting change is only possible when we stand together.”

As a first step, Nixon encouraged lawmakers to “reform municipal courts,” something Republicans also have embraced, in response to complaints from Ferguson protesters and other St. Louis-area residents about cities that derive a large percentage of their revenues from traffic tickets.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey said he also agrees with Nixon that Missouri needs to update its deadly force laws to be brought in line with U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The court had ruled in a Tennessee case a couple of decades ago that deadly force cannot be used against an apparently unarmed fleeing suspect who poses no serious danger to police or others.

Nixon said officials must recruit and train police who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. And he implored lawmakers to “support policies that foster racial understanding,” create economic opportunity and strengthen failing schools.

Many of his suggestions received more applause from Democrats than from Republicans. But GOP lawmakers joined in a standing ovation when Nixon said he was proud of law enforcement officers.

House Speaker John Diehl, who delivered a Republican response speech, accused Nixon of poor leadership during the Ferguson events and pledged that legislators would investigate why the National Guard was not used in Ferguson on the night of the grand jury decision.

“Our governor failed to communicate his polices and fulfill his promises, and Missourians paid the price as Ferguson was looted and destroyed,” Diehl said.

Diehl said the Republican agenda includes removing “those who are capable of earning a living wage” from Missouri’s welfare rolls. He also pledged that lawmakers would pass a bill expanding the availability of charter schools and online schools for students in public schools lacking state accreditation.

Nixon’s budget plan includes a $50 million increase in basic aid for public schools. He said that could be boosted by an additional $79 million if legislators pass several measures to generate revenues, including expanding Medicaid eligibility under the terms of President Barack Obama’s health care law. But such proposals have failed in past years, and Republican legislators appear unlikely to pass them this session.

To fully fund Missouri’s school formula in 2016 would require a $482 million increase to the nearly $3.2 billion in basic aid that schools are due to receive this year.

Some education groups said a $50 million increase wouldn’t be enough to avoid cuts in certain school districts.

“This is going to create problems for our schools. … It could mean teacher layoffs,” said Mike Wood, the government relations director for the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he would support an additional $100 million funding increase for public schools.

But House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Flanigan said he has no target yet for how much money he hopes to provide to schools. He said next year’s budget likely will be lean.

“New spending is going to be tough,” Flanigan, R-Carthage, said.

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