Legislature Advances $22.4 Billion State Budget

 Legislature Advances $22.4 Billion State Budget

Supports $121 Million Increase for K-12 Education, Nearly $50 Million Increase in Access Missouri College Scholarship Program

JEFFERSON CITY – Approving funding to run critical functions of state government with an emphasis on improving education, the Missouri General Assembly advanced thirteen budget bills totaling $22.4 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 $48.7 million in the Access Missouri Scholarship Program, making more than $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 institutions’ budgets.”

The increases for higher education represent the third consecutive year universities and community colleges have benefited from Republican leadership.

Representative Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, chairman of the House Budget Committee, noted the budget writers’ ability to grow education spending without a tax increase stems from economic reforms.

“In three years we’ve created more than 90,000 jobs in Missouri,” Icet said. “Job growth, coupled with responsible spending that doesn’t go beyond what the taxpayers can afford, has allowed us to improve education funding at all levels without a tax increase.”

Missouri veterans benefit from the budget with $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 allocated for a National Guard tuition assistance program.

The budget also increases spending for several health programs including $7.4 million for autism services, $250,000 for the Missouri Alternatives to Abortion Program, and $500,000 for Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs).

Children benefit from the budget with a $6.1 million increase for childcare for families below 127 percent of the poverty level. 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 and Rep. Icet have orchestrated a budget that provides for and protects our most vulnerable citizens in a way taxpayers can afford for years to come.”

House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, commended Icet for his work and commitment to preserving some of the House priorities.

“We work to make government smaller, better and more efficient for Missourians,” said Jetton. “Rep. Icet led the way in promoting those principles by working to control spending, allowing us to fund education and programs like autism services that Democrats weren’t able to because they couldn’t balance the budget without a tax increase.”

Lawmakers completed the budget a day before the deadline set by the state constitution. Fiscal year 2009 begins July 1, 2008.