Constitutionally, Missouri’s General Assembly must produce and send a balanced budget on to the governor one week before Session’s end. In times past, this was usually the deadline that was met, and it gave the governor until June 30 to sign or veto individual line items or the entire budget. The General Assembly would then come back in September to attempt an override of any vetoes. With the passage of Amendment 10, approved by voters in the fall of 2014, lawmakers now have the authority to override any spending decisions made by the governor. Overrides will take a two-thirds majority of both chambers.
With the budget finished early and on his desk three weeks before the end of Session, Governor Nixon now has fifteen days to sign the thirteen budget bills into law or to veto any line item. Consequently, this gives the General Assembly time before Session’s end to address any vetoes or spending restrictions. It also gives state departments, school districts, and other agencies of state government a clearer understanding of how much money they will have available, and gives them the ability to make plans accordingly.
The finished FY 16 budget that was approved by the House and the Senate was closer to the House’s original proposed spending plan but did include the Senate’s version in an effort to help reign in the growth of the state social welfare programs. The final budget included the Senate’s plan to move Missouri’s Medicaid population to a system of managed care. This was one of the more controversial issues in the budget; however, the transition will occur slowly and only after the plan has been reviewed. The cost for the expanded social programs is consuming every bit of the new revenue coming in, as well as some of the revenue needed for other programs.
One of the key points of the budget includes record levels of funding for elementary and secondary education. Missouri will spend $5.78 billion, or 22.2% of the total state budget of $26.2 billion on K-12 public schools for the FY 16 budget year. Of this money, more than $3.2 billion will come from general revenue (GR), and represents 36% of the $8.85 billion state GR amount. General revenue is the amount of money over which Missouri’s General Assembly has direct spending authority and is about one-third of the total state budget.
The FY 16 budget increases funding for the foundation formula by $84 million. That is $34 million more than the governor’s recommendation. The budget also includes significant increases to several educational programs: Parents as Teachers will receive an additional $2.4 million; virtual education for medically frail students will increase by $200,000; Teach for America will receive $1 million. While the foundation formula remains below full funding, efforts are moving forward to reach the full amount.
Higher education will receive a total of $1.26 billion this year, but some feel Missouri’s higher education programs—colleges and universities—are under funded. Collectively, these institutions received a $12 million performance-based funding increase, which translates to only 1.3% more than what they received last year. With any tuition increase frozen, this puts Missouri’s higher education institutions in urgent need of more funding.
Missing from this year’s budget was a salary increase for Missouri state workers. Over the last three years our workers have received a modest but steady salary increase. We have been trying to bring state workers more in line with neighboring states but, unfortunately, this year the money could not be found to do so. Missouri state workers are among the lowest paid of any in the nation.
A provision that would have prevented Governor Nixon from extending the existing St. Louis sports facility bonds in order to build a new billion-dollar football stadium in that city was not put in this year’s budget, and though many lawmakers wanted the provision included in the FY 16 budget, it didn’t happen. The argument was that any new sport’s facility would be subject to a vote of the people of St. Louis, and before acting, the governor would need approval from the state’s General Assembly.
The FY 16 budget and its over $26 billion spending plan is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2015 and ensures that all of Missouri’s debt obligations for the year will be met.