This week, the Senate began work on the 13 bills that make up the state’s core budget for the coming fiscal year, and we completed work on two supplemental spending bills. The budget is a difficult task for legislators as we work to create a fiscally responsible spending plan that will still support Missouri’s most essential services.
Supplemental budget bills address budget issues that were not passed or were not funded to the level of being sufficient for the whole year. This year, we dealt with two supplemental budget bills, House Bills 14 and 15, to help fund services in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 31, 2011. Now awaiting the governor’s signature, these bills will go into effect immediately.
House Bill 14 contains funding for several state programs including Early Childhood Special Education, A+ Schools, the Downtown Revitalization Preservation Program, and the Missouri Sheriff Methamphetamine Relief Task Force, as well as funding for the State Highway Patrol crime labs, state colleges and universities, and Division of Senior and Disability Services. Appropriations in the legislation total $227 million.
House Bill 15 specifically focuses on additional funding for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The legislation proposes holding over $189.7 million in federal funding available to schools through the Federal Education Jobs Fund. This bill is designed to hold K-12 education funding steady for the Fiscal Year 2012, which begins on July 1, 2011.
House Bills 1-13 make up the state’s spending plan for the 2012 fiscal year. The proposed $23.2 billion budget includes funding for K-12 classrooms, state universities and colleges, and social services. These bills have already been approved by the House and have been amended by the Senate Appropriations Committee to reflect the priorities of the Senate. This includes a $20 million increase for transportation for K-12 education and lessening cuts to public universities and colleges to only 4.8 percent. By reworking budget priorities, the committee was able to craft a budget plan that reflects true dedication to education.
Missouri is not like the federal government — we can only spend what we have. For this reason, it is essential that we work to pass a balanced budget. This is especially difficult now, as revenues are just beginning to bounce back after the recession. Just like households throughout the state, Missouri has to reign in spending, make tough decisions, and make every dollar count.
If members of the House do not approve changes made by the Senate, differences between the two versions of the bills will need to be ironed out by a conference committee. The budget plan that comes out of these negotiations will need final approval from both bodies before moving to the governor’s desk.