Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legislature Oks 11th-Hour Budget

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Legislature Oks 11th-Hour Budget

Article excerpt

The Legislature ended a two-day standoff over family planning money and sent the $13.7 billion Missouri budget to the governor hours before the constitutional deadline Friday.

Senators took less than 15 minutes to approve the final three bills of the dozen-bill spending blueprint, following House endorsement Friday morning. Next stop: Gov. Mel Carnahan, who has line-item veto power for spending he doesn't want.

The House voted 135-0, with no discussion, to pass a compromise spending plan for the departments of Health and Mental Health.

That part of the budget had been held up because House and Senate negotiators could not agree on how to spend $1.5 million for family planning and other services. The disagreement had also stalled consideration of the final one-third of the state spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

With the health and mental health budget bill out of the way, representatives quickly endorsed the rest of the budget and sent the bills to the Senate. Approval for the three bills was fast and unanimous there.

Senators had to begin debate on the spending before 6 p.m. to meet the constitutional deadline.

Late Thursday, the Legislature gave final approval to nine of the budget bills paying for day-to-day operations of state government. Those bills - which include money for education, crime fighting and transportation - now await Carnahan's consideration.

If the budget had not been completed Friday, Missouri would have plunged into legal uncertainty about its finances after July 1.

At issue was the 10th budget bill, with money for family planning and abortion alternatives - contentious topics that have tied the Legislature in knots during the past three years.

The House agreed Friday to give $900,000 to hospitals and county health clinics to promote alternatives to abortion for women during pregnancy. It also voted to spend $664,000 for pregnancy testing and follow-up services.

Negotiators had been stuck because of wording about how the money should be spent. …

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