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Missouri House Passes FY2015 State Budget

UPI/Bill Greenblatt

The Missouri House has passed all 13 budget bills with an estimated $26.6 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2015, which begins July 1.

During Thursday's round of budget votes, House Democrats began sharply criticizing this year's budget writing process. Along with Gov. Jay Nixon, they disagree with House Republicans about how much revenue they think the state will take in.  State Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Hazelwood, accused GOP leaders of crafting an unnecessarily low budget.

"That is, in my estimation, primarily because (of) two factors," McNeil said.  "One, we're not looking at the improvement in the job market as much as we could, (and two), we're also not accepting Medicaid expansion into the budget."

McNeil, a former art teacher in the Ferguson-Florissant school district, was especially critical of how Republican budget writers crafted the bill for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"Unfortunately, the committee chose to work with the wrong set of numbers; they chose to be stingy," McNeil said.  "I don't know why, perhaps it was to insure that the governor could not withhold even one single dime...that is not a reasoned or prudent approach."

Republicans strongly disagreed with McNeil's comments.

"I don't know if (McNeil) is living in a fantasy world or what," said state Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. "Just because the governor says there's money to budget for this and money to budget for that (doesn't mean there is) ... He could have cured hunger in the world in this budget!"

State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, also chimed in.

"The governor brought us a budget based on pixie dust predictions and long-shot legislation," Barnes said.  "It's our duty as the House to pass a budget that is actually balanced."

Democrats and Republicans also argued over whether the Ozark National Scenic Riverways should become a state park or remain part of the National Park Service, as well as whether Medicaid should be expanded.  

The state budget is now in the hands of the Missouri Senate.  A final version has to be passed by both chambers no later than 5 p.m. on May 9, one week before the end of the 2014 regular session.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.