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Missouri Senate Committee Begins Reviewing State Budget Passed By House

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Budget writers in the Missouri Senate have begun their review of the state's spending plan for Fiscal Year 2015.

On Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee  chose to stick with the House's proposal to have a two-tiered spending plan for the state's K-12 schools. The plan offers two budget figures — one based on Republicans' predictions for revenue growth for the upcoming year; the other based on projections from Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. If the governor's "rosier projections" hold true, K-12 spending would increase by $278 million next year.  If they do not, public school spending would go up by only $115 million, based on changes made by Senate budget writers. That's $7 million less than the $122 million increase being sought by the House. The Senate's budget committee is chaired by Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

"The governor put the House, and us, in a position to make it look like (there would be) money (available) that he budgeted, that clearly is never going to be there," Schaefer said.  "That's from the governor's completely artificial belief that (general revenue) was going grow at 5.9 percent…. We just finished the (1st) quarter (of 2014) at 1.7 (percent, and) we're at 1.3 today."

Schaefer also accused the governor of basing his version of the budget on his desire to expand Medicaid.

Nixon "lit this budget up like a Christmas tree," Schaefer said, "so what we had to do was go back and see, OK, what really can be funded and what was just a Christmas present that was put out there as an inducement to do Medicaid expansion."

Meanwhile, Schaefer and other Senate budget writers plan to increase funding for universities and community colleges by 5 percent, instead of the 3 percent approved by the House. Nixon's proposal contains a 5 percent spending hike for universities and 4 percent for community colleges.  Committee members also chose to allot $33 million to build a new home for the Historical Society of Missouri in Columbia.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will resume its review of the state budget on Tuesday.  The full Senate will vote later on the recommendations being made this week, and a final version of the state budget has to be voted on and sent to Nixon by May 9.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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