Each year the Missouri Legislature is constitutionally required to do only one thing, pass a balanced budget. We have until the Friday before the last week of session to accomplish this task or else go in to immediate special session until a final version of the budget can be agreed upon. This week, with the May 9th deadline looming, the House and Senate moved one step closer to finishing the budget for the Fiscal Year 2015 by sending 12 of the 13 appropriations bills to conference committees where the final details will be worked out.
As I have mentioned in a previous report, the governor had based his budget on 5.2 percent growth. In contrast, the legislature and economic experts from the University of Missouri predicted a 4.2 growth rate was more realistic. However, in the event the governor’s more optimistic outlook proves to be correct, the House and Senate built in a surplus revenue fund where dollars above their growth estimate would be placed and then distributed to various state services.
Both the House and Senate agree that elementary and secondary education will see a $278 million increase in funding if the governor’s estimates prove to be correct. If revenue growth instead comes in at the rate predicted by the legislature, the House’s budget plan would provide a funding boost to K-12 education of $122 million. In contrast, the Senate’s plan would provide an increase of only $115 million. The House and Senate plans also differ in regard to higher education funding. The House version of the budget would increase funding to public universities and colleges around the state by as much as 3 percent while the Senate version would increase funding by as much as 5 percent.
The House and Senate plans also differ in other areas. For example, the House version calls for a $25 million increase to funding levels for K-12 transportation while the Senate plan calls for only a $15 million increase. The House included an additional $20 million for our Access Missouri college scholarship program while the Senate authorized only an $8.6 million increase. The House also approved an additional $8.2 million for preschool programs in struggling school districts and the Senate reduced that number to $3.1 million in their plan.
These are just a few examples of the differences in the two plans but ones that we will certainly work to resolve in the next few days. Budget leaders from both sides will meet in conference on each of the bills to iron out the differences. Our hope is that we can hold the House position on many of these education funding increases.
By this time next week, the budget process should be finalized and the we will know what Missouri’s budget will look like for the next fiscal year.
For more information about the legislation mentioned above please visit the House of Representatives website, www.house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.