The Missouri House on Wednesday approved an operating budget with about $146 million in cuts. The total budget is $34.9 billion. Business closings during the coronavirus outbreak have reduced tax revenues, and state employees will not receive pay raises in the new budget.
State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, spoke several times on the House floor, criticizing legislative Republicans for approving $450 million in tax cuts in recent years. She said money should have been used for education and other essential services. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said the growing Medicaid budget has affected higher education and other essential programs.
He said the budget also includes $11 million for institutional staff stipends for corrections officers at the Missouri Department of Corrections, as well as $10 million for county jail reimbursements. Smith had hoped for $15 million but noted that COVID-19 affected the amount.
Wednesday’s debate also featured a heated discussion about the issue of Medicaid expansion. Lavender told the House that states that have expanded Medicaid receive $500 more per person than states like Missouri. But State Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, argued against it, warning about the federal debt and deficit.
Richey blasted House Democrats on the floor for arguing for Medicaid expansion. He said it’s immoral and that Democrats want to deficit-spend. The conversation got more heated when Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, and Richey spoke over each other during a heated floor debate.
“I dare you to go back to your constituents and say we don’t need no stinking federal dollars,” Mitten told Richey.
The budget now heads to the Missouri Senate, and Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, said he expects the Senate Appropriations Committee to work through the weekend on the budget.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice