Of all the actions the Legislature undertakes each year, passing the state budget is one of the most important. It’s also the only task we’re constitutionally required to complete. Because of this, the road to passing the state spending plan is rarely smooth. Unlike other pieces of legislation, the 13 core budget bills have to be approved by the Legislature.
Even in the midst of the worst economic crisis in nearly a century, our state passed a budget that lives within our means. And we will continue to do so. It’s this fiscal responsibility that has enabled Missouri to fair relatively well compared to other states. We’re one of only a handful that has maintained our triple AAA bond rating.
The budget process was particularly difficult this year, however, for a number of reasons. As I’ve discussed previously, we faced a significant revenue shortfall this year, around half a billion dollars.
There were also several points of contention in this year’s budget, which is certainly not a new phenomenon. With 163 representatives and 34 senators, there are bound to be differences in how we craft the state’s spending plan. Some had to do with different approaches to items in the budget between the House and Senate, and some had to do with individual priorities for certain members in both bodies.
On Thursday, the General Assembly passed the budget, a day before the constitutional deadline.
The final spending plan included a 2 percent raise for state employees who make up to $70,000. This was an important priority for lawmakers, as state employees haven’t had a pay raise in around four years. This raise will benefit nearly 97 percent of state employees.
The governor’s original budget proposal had sharp cuts to Missouri’s colleges and universities, but the Legislature fought hard to restore that funding and keep it level. We also increased the K-12 school foundation formula by $5 million. It is vitally important that we continue to invest in education. Of all the economic development measures we consider, providing a quality education for our students is the most beneficial.
Cuts were inevitable with us facing such a significant shortfall, but this budget funds the most critical functions of our state government. And, we balanced this budget without a tax increase on hard-working Missourians. The 13 bills that make up the budget now go to the governor for his signature. Once signed, the state’s spending plan for fiscal year 2013 will take affect on July 1.