Senate Advances $22.6 Billion State Operating Budget

 Senate Advances $22.6 Billion State Operating Budget

Senate Supports $121 Million Increase for K-12 Education

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JEFFERSON CITY – Approving funding to run critical functions of state government with an emphasis on improving education, the Missouri Senate yesterday (4/17) advanced thirteen budget bills totaling $22.6 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The bills include a $121 million increase for the school foundation formula, as well as an additional $3.5 million increase to fund more eligible students for the A+ Schools Program that covers full tuition for the first two years of college for students who perform well in a participating high school. Missouri college students will have even more opportunities for needs-based scholarships, with an increase of $29 million in the Access Missouri Scholarship Program, making $100 million available for scholarships annually for Missouri students to attend public or private colleges and universities.

Sen. Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and handled the budget bills in the Senate.

“We have continued our commitment to fully fund a new school funding formula that gives all our children an equal opportunity for a great education,” Nodler said. “We added $121 million without a tax increase, while increasing college scholarships through the A+ and Access Missouri programs and increasing higher education budgets by six percent, their third year in row for growth.”

A total of $340 million is dedicated to help low income Missourians who are uninsured purchase health insurance coverage. There is $2.2 million dedicated to the Serving Our Veterans Program for mental health services to family members of veterans and transitional housing assistance for homeless veterans. An additional $250,000 is included for a National Guard tuition assistance program. The budget also increases spending for several health programs including $7.3 million for autism serves, $250,000 for the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Program, and $500,000 for Area Agencies on Aging.

Children benefit from the budget with a $6.1 million increase for childcare for families below 127 percent of the poverty level or $26,924 for a family of four. Another increase of $4.8 million covers pre-existing conditions for children insured by the State’s Health Insurance Program known as CHIPS.

Senate Leader Mike Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, commended Nodler in his new role.

“Sen. Nodler has worked to protect taxpayers,” he said. “He’s orchestrating a budget that provides for and protects our most vulnerable in a way taxpayers can afford for years to come.”

Differences in the budget bills will now be debated by conference committees; negotiated versions must be approved by the House before returning to the Senate and then advancing to the governor. The budget must pass by 6 p.m., Friday, May 9, as required by the constitution.