A screen streaming the Conference Committee on Budget stands

A screen streaming the Conference Committee on Budget stands outside the committee room Wednesday at the Capitol in Jefferson City. The committee, composed of both state senators and representatives, met to reconcile differences between the House and Senate budget bills.

JEFFERSON CITY – The state budget is flush with cash, and lawmakers put it to use today. Members of the House and Senate came together to hammer out discrepancies in the $34 billion state budget.

The proposed budget, hammered out by a conference committee Wednesday, includes funding for many one-time projects, including improvements to the Capitol building.

“We accomplished a lot of things” in the budget proposal, Senate Appropriations Chair Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, said. Much of the reason for that success is the billions in additional federal funding that Missouri has received through pandemic relief. Hegeman also gave credit to Gov. Mike Parson’s handling of the state economy.

Notably not in the budget was $1.9 billion to expand Medicaid. That was killed in the Senate last week.

Major compromises include increasing funding to most universities by 3.7%. That increase will be added every year as a part of core funding. The conference committee also agreed to give MU $10 million for its NextGen Precision Health Institute.

The allocation stirred up some controversy because the 3.7% increase was allocated to the UM system, rather than to individual campuses. Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, pointed out that the increase may not be equally distributed.

“Do not call this a 3.7 percent increase for the UM System because it is not,” Arthur said.

The committee also allocated about $60 million to the state’s consumer-directed services program available to Missourians with disabilities and seniors.

Also added to the budget from the Senate side was $48 million to compensate for the state’s overpayment of unemployment benefits. The issue has been contentious in both the House and the Senate. Legislation to prohibit the state from trying to collect the overpayments from Missourians is still pending. Rep. Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, said he worries the appropriation will advocate for the passage of the legislation.

“If we move forward with this position, it can be used as a kind of a tip of the cap that we should move forward with the pending legislation,” Deaton said. “I’ve had other objections as well but just specifically as relates to this appropriation; I think it’s problematic on a few different levels.”

Also in the final budget proposal, added from the Senate side, is more than $324 million in rental assistance and $150 million in homeowner’s assistance, both fully funded by the federal government.

Co-chairs Hegeman and Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, were willing to add more funds based on complaints from senators and representatives on the committee. One program, Save Our Sons, had annual funding reinstated after Sen. Karla May, D-Saint Louis, complimented the program.

“They have exceeded all state metrics,” May said. “They have been doing an outstanding job.”

Hegeman responded, “You are very persuasive,” and restored the program’s annual funding.

Another sticking point was funding for the state’s MORx program, which provides prescription drug assistance to Missourians through Medicaid.

  • Mark Horvit is the state government editor. Call me at 817-726-1621 with story ideas, tips or complaints.

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