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Conference committee budget to go to House floor Thursday

May 07, 2003
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A budget plan that makes cuts in education budgets will come before the Missouri House Thursday.

The last budget bills were passed out of conference committee Wednesday morning. Committee members spent 18 hours from Tuesday morning until 2 a.m. Wednesday finalizing the bills.

Under the new plan, higher education would receive about $1 billion while lower education would get $4.478 billion. In return, the Department of Social Services budget would reduce funding for the MC+ for Kids program and Medicaid.

The University of Missouri system budget would suffer a $28 million cut from its appropriations for fiscal year 2003. The system had $411.147 million in appropriations for 2003, before budget withholdings.

House Budget Committee Chairman Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said the new budget plan would require $150 million in additional revenue. He said he expects the legislature to pass at least $154 million using revenue packages currently under consideration.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman John Russell, R-Lebanon, echoed Bearden's feelings.

"We obviously expect those revenue enhancements to pass, and I think they will," he said.

However, some legislators expressed concern about balancing the budget on revenue that hasn't yet passed.

Bearden said the legislature normally passes revenue packages after the budget.

In budget negotiations, legislators agreed to keep the MC+ for Kids program but increase the number of families that would be charged copayments for visits to health care providers.

Other Social Services cuts were made that would make some adults ineligible for the Medicaid program.

Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, was on the conference committee for higher education. He said he was pleased that many University of Missouri services were saved from cuts.

However, Harris said he didn't sign the conference committee report because he still felt too many cuts were made.

He said the conference committee didn't take up the higher education budget until 1:30 a.m. and then the committee rushed through it.

Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia and a member of the lower education conference committee, said the leadership made all the committee's decisions.

"They really didn't include members of the conference committee," he said.

Other cuts in the conference committee budget plan would:

-eliminate funding for state family planning services.

-reduce funding for Missouri Lottery advertising.

-eliminate the start-up funding for a new state prison in Jefferson City.

-eliminate funding for next February's presidential primary.

The AP contributed to this report.