Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mo. Legislature Sends $26 Billion Budget to Nixon Early

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mo. Legislature Sends $26 Billion Budget to Nixon Early

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Setting a blazing pace for budget deliberations, Missouri lawmakers approved on Thursday a $26 billion state budget two weeks early giving themselves time to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto pen before the end of the current legislative session.

The governor has 15 days to veto part or all of the budget. The session ends May 15; the deadline to send the budget to Nixon is May 8.

Nixon issued a statement saying he would review the budget "and take any actions necessary to ensure we maintain our strict fiscal discipline, protect our AAA credit rating and grow our economy."

Lawmakers usually use a September veto session to override the governor's vetoes. An override requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber 109 in the House and 23 in the Senate.

The spending plan passed by the Legislature contained a number of compromises. Lawmakers decided against making $140 million in cuts to social programs, as proposed by Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia. The controversial plan, which would have lumped various programs within the departments of Mental Health, Health and Senior Services and Social Services together and skim 4 percent to 6 percent off the top, was removed from the budget Wednesday night in a compromise between the two chambers.

Schaefer had argued that the cuts would rein in spending in areas that continue to grow each year. But the plan immediately came under fire from Nixon and Senate Republican Leaders. House members, too, dug in their heels and demanded a compromise.

Schaefer agreed to a more modest, $40 million general revenue cut to those departments because it "starts to bend that cost curve."

Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, was glad the cuts were stymied. Mental health care, he said on the House floor Thursday, is important because "these are people who cannot take care of themselves. We have to take care of these people."

But Schaefer said that compromise equated to less funding for public higher education institutions. The Senate, taking into account the money freed up from social programs under Schaefer's cuts, had approved a $27.6 million general revenue increase toward those institutions based on performance. …

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