In recent years the governor has used his State of the State address to outline proposed spending plans that were simply unrealistic, if not impossible. Time and time again he has asked for spending that far exceeds our revenues, and each time the legislature has done the fiscally responsible thing by scaling back his proposals to craft a realistic, balanced budget.
The members of the House and Senate expected more of the same this year as the governor delivered his speech Wednesday night. Instead, we were pleasantly surprised as the governor outlined what many are calling a “modest” budget. I say modest because it contains only a handful of spending increases to the state budget that already exceeds $26 billion. It is a proposal that will give the legislature something to work with as we prepare the Fiscal Year 2016 spending plan in the months to come.
Some of the funding increases proposed by the governor include:
· An additional $50 million in funding for our public K-12 schools throughout the state;
· Another $5 million for the state’s Early Childhood Special Education program;
· A $2 million increase for Project Lead the Way, which will be used to promote science, technology, engineering and math learning in an additional 350 elementary schools:
· An increase of $12 million in performance-based funding for Missouri’s public colleges and universities;
· A bump of $2 million for the Access Missouri Scholarship program and the A+ Scholarship program;
· An increase of $2.4 million for blind pension payments
As you can see, he has prioritized education and aid to some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. These are priorities that are shared by those of us in the legislature, which signals what I hope will be a more cooperative budget process going forward. I will do my best to keep you updated as the budget moves through the legislative process in the months ahead.