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House and Senate Give Final Approval to the State Operating Budget (HBs 1-13)
The House and Senate have reached final agreement on a fiscally responsible state spending plan that provides record funding for K-12 education, makes major investments in the state’s infrastructure, provides strong support for law enforcement and public safety, and boosts funding for state programs that serve the state’s most vulnerable citizens. Ahead of the constitutional deadline, lawmakers gave bipartisan support to the various budget bills that make up the Fiscal Year 2024 state operating budget.
The budget as it left the House in March appropriated approximately $45.6 billion. The Senate then added several additional spending items to bring the total price tag of the plan to roughly $49.9 billion. The final version approved by the two chambers cuts the Senate total by more than $1 billion to bring the total funding allocated in the budget to nearly $48.8 billion.
Record Funding for K-12 Schools
Included in the budget is more than $9.8 billion in funding for K-12 public schools in Missouri. That total includes $3.6 billion to provide full funding for the school foundation formula, which determines funding levels for public schools across the state. The funding for public education also includes an additional $233 million to provide a total of $347 million to fully fund school transportation for the second time in as many years. The House and Senate also agreed to provide an additional $29 million to raise the minimum public school teacher salary to $38,000 annually. Additionally, the two chambers agreed to allocate $50 million in funding for Close the Gap grants that will help Missouri families address the learning loss that occurred as a result of the pandemic.
Increased Support for Higher Education
Lawmakers also expressed their ongoing support for higher education with their funding decisions in the budget. The finalized version of the spending plan allocates more than $1.4 billion for higher education and workforce development. Included in that figure is a 7% funding increase for the state’s public colleges and universities. The FY 2024 budget also includes full funding for the state’s scholarship programs such as Bright Flight, Access Missouri, and the A+ Scholarship Program. Legislators also approved $38.3 million for MoExcels workforce development projects on college campuses.
Funding Increases for I-70 Expansion and Infrastructure Improvements
The House and Senate also addressed one of the major spending items requested by Governor Mike Parson, who had originally called for the legislature to spend $859 million to expand Interstate 70 to six lanes in several areas between Kansas City and St. Louis. The final version of the budget expands that proposal to provide sufficient funding to widen Interstate-70 to at least three lanes in both directions from Blue Springs near Kansas City to Wentzville near St. Louis. The budget plan checks in with $2.8 billion in funding for the project, which includes $1.4 billion in general revenue and $1.4 billion from bonds.
The House Budget Committee Chairman said, “This represents the single greatest investment into our transportation network in the state’s history.”
Lawmakers also included $25 million for environmental studies for Interstate 44 and U.S. Route 63, and $50 million for safety improvements at railroad crossings.
Strong Support for Law Enforcement and Public Safety Another point of emphasis in the spending plan is support for law enforcement and public safety. The budget provides a 20% pay increase for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Capitol Police. It also includes $50 million for school safety grants for Missouri schools to make physical security investments on their campuses, develop safety plans, establish school resource officer programs, and increase active threat trainings. Additionally, the budget provides $2 million to the Missouri National Guard to assist with recruitment.
Improved Care for Missouri’s Vulnerable Population House and Senate members also approved several spending items that will improve health care outcomes and improve services for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. The budget includes $300 million to build a new mental health hospital in Kansas City. Lawmakers also approved $171 million to boost pay for workers who provide residential and other support services to Missourians with developmental disabilities. The funding increase will bring their base pay to approximately $16 an hour. The budget also provides a $33.3 million funding increase for the state’s Children’s Division, which manages the state’s foster care system and investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. The additional dollars will boost staffing levels by 134 employees.
The bills that make up the budget now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration. Gov. Parson has the option to sign the bills into law or to use his authority to issue line item vetoes to reject certain spending items in the budget.
Items of note in the budget:
Missouri House Approves Bills to Support Working Missourians and New Mothers (SB 106)
This week the members of the Missouri House and Senate gave final approval to a Senate Bill containing proposals that would assist Missourians with disabilities, as well as individuals with low income and new mothers on state assistance.
One of the provisions included in SB 106 is a transitional program meant to help people get off of state assistance gradually as their income increases. House members say the state’s assistance programs for low-income Missourians trap people in poverty because if they accept a raise that puts them above a program’s limits, they could lose more in state benefits than they gain from a raise.
The sponsor of the measure said it would let people incrementally transition off of state assistance. He told his colleagues, “Trying to create this transitional system that encouraged people to work, that encouraged people to take those raises and to start to work their way up the income ladder and to hopefully, once this goes into effect, actually reduce the number of people receiving benefits in the state.”
One of the supporters of the provision said it is the result of years of work and that it has “been a bipartisan effort to essentially wean folks off of assistance, whether it’s TANF or SNAP, and make it easier for Missourians to get what they need to be successful working citizens while at the same time making sure that all of their needs are being met.”
The House also voted to add language to SB 106 that could allow individuals with disabilities to finally be able to advance in their careers without worry of losing state assistance.
The changes to the state’s Ticket to Work health insurance program within MO HealthNet would increase the limit to how much a person can earn before they lose benefits, and would not count up to $50,000 of a spouse’s income toward that limit. It would also direct state agencies to have policies to recruit and keep employees with disabilities and create competitive ways to integrate them into workforces.
“These are people who are actually begging us to work, who want to work, who want to get promotions, who want to seek new jobs,” said one of the measure’s supporters. She went on to say the provision addresses “the fiscal cliff, making sure that you don’t have to do quite as much of a tap dance that too many people in our state are doing, where you’re allowed to make so much money but only to a certain point.”
The same supporter said the benefits that individuals stand to lose often enable them to have a job in the first place. She noted, “A personal care attendant, your health insurance, your additional services and equipment that you receive through the state that allow you to work. This would address and allow you to make more money, put that money back into the economy because if you make more money you’re going to spend more money.”
Also included in the bill is a bipartisan plan to extend post-partum coverage under MO HealthNet or Show-Me Healthy Babies from 60 days to a year.
The sponsor of the provision said, “In 2019, 75-percent of pregnancy-related deaths in Missouri were determined to be preventable; those deaths that were attributed to things like embolism, hemorrhage, infections, concerns with cardiovascular health, chronic health conditions, and there’s one common denominator that can save these women’s lives, and that’s healthcare access.”
Supporters of the measure said it is an important pro-life provision. One supporter said, “We who talk about being pro-life, I don’t know how we do that and then cut off the most vulnerable of our society after 60 days.” He added, “I believe if we’re ever going to spend money [on benefits programs] it ought to be for those most vulnerable among us. Those very ones that we fought for them to be able to be born. We have to take care of them.”
SB 106 now moves to the governor’s desk for his consideration.
House Once Again Supports Tax Relief Package (SB 247)
As the Missouri General Assembly heads into the final week of the legislative session, House members have once again given their approval to a legislative package that would reduce the tax burden on Missouri families and businesses. The House approved SB 247 with several changes that would reduce personal income tax, phase out corporate income tax, exempt social security benefits from taxation, and protect vehicle owners from excessive property tax assessments.
The House had previously approved similar measures in the form of House Bills that were sent to the Senate. However, the other chamber has failed to take substantive action on the tax relief measures sent to it by the House. With the final day to approve legislation rapidly approaching, the members of the House expanded SB 247 in the hope of giving the Senate another opportunity to approve a tax relief package.
The bill, as modified by the House, would reduce the state income tax burden on Missouri taxpayers. Under the bill, the state’s top personal income tax rate of 4.95% would drop to 4.5% on January 1 of next year. The bill preserves triggers put into place when the General Assembly approved a tax relief package last year. If revenues grow at a healthy rate and all triggers are met, the top tax rate would be reduced to 4.05%.
The bill also includes a reduction for the corporate income tax that currently stands at 4%. The bill would drop the rate to 2% beginning January 1, 2024. The plan includes additional triggers that could eventually phase out the corporate income tax entirely if state revenues grow at a robust rate.
Another provision in the bill would exempt social security benefits from state tax.
The House also added a provision that would change current state law that requires assessors to determine vehicle values by using the National Automobile Dealers’ Association Official Used Car Guide. The bill would repeal that requirement and instead have assessors use the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for all vehicles for the original value of all motor vehicle assessment valuations. The bill establishes a 10-year depreciation schedule that would be applied to the MSRP to develop the annual and historical valuation guide for all motor vehicles.
The House handler of the legislation told his colleagues, “It’s a great tax cut bill of the people’s money we’re giving back to them.”
The bill is now in conference where members from both sides will work to iron out any differences and reach a final agreement. The legislature has until Friday, May 12 to give the bill final approval.
Show MO Act Approved to Attract Economic Activity to Missouri (SB 94)
Legislation is now on its way to the governor’s desk that would help attract revenue-generating film and entertainment projects to the state.
The House handler said that because Missouri currently lacks incentives to attract film and television projects, “there is great business leaving this state.” He said that by passing the bill, “We’re going to be an economic driver. There’s going to be a bunch of money coming into this state, and I believe [this bill] is a long time coming and we’re going to join the club of growth and economic opportunity.”
Missouri last had a tax incentive program for film and entertainment projects in 2013. In the years since, Missouri has seen major motion picture and television productions bypass the Show-Me State for states with better incentive packages – even productions that are set in Missouri.
SB 94 would establish tax credits for film projects starting at 20 percent of specified costs, with opportunities for additional credits as other criteria are met. Dubbed the “Show MO Act,” the House handler of the bill said the program is well thought out.
He told his colleagues, “Investments have to be made inside the state before the credits are handed out. The Department of Economic Development will kind of have the final say in whether or not the credit goes out if it meets the program.”
Improved film tax credits have been considered by Missouri legislators for years. Supporters have noted that when the 2014 movie Gone Girl was filmed in Missouri it brought $7.8 million to the state while providing employment for more than 110 Missourians and more than one thousand more who appeared as extras.
However, other states have frequently won out on productions of stories that take place in Missouri because they have better incentive packages. The Netflix series Ozark, even though it unfolded around the Lake of the Ozarks, was filmed in Georgia. Even scenes taking place in the Missouri State Capitol Building were filmed in Georgia’s Capitol building.
The House handler said, “When film producers call the State of Missouri, call the state film office to say ‘We want to film this movie here,’ and they ask the next question, ‘What’s the incentive program in Missouri look like?’ and when our film office has to then say, ‘We’ve got really great locations,’ because they can’t answer the question on whether or not there’s incentives in Missouri, there’s great business leaving this state.”
One supporter said the bill is long overdue. He said, “This would be a fantastic economic driver for our state, and I don’t know about everyone else in here, but I’m tired of watching a television show and at the end seeing that Georgia peach emblem knowing that could have been shot in Missouri.”
SB 94 would allow film productions additional credits when at least half of filming is done in Missouri; at least 15% takes place in rural or blighted areas; at least three of a project’s departments hire a Missourian ready to advance in their field; or the project positively portrays the state or something in it.
The bill also aims to bring more music industry dollars to the state by authorizing credits for rehearsal and tour expenses for live tours and associated rehearsals.
Legislators laid out limits for these credits as well. The House handler explained, “There must be at least $1 million spent with Missouri music vendors, they’ve got to rehearse in a qualified facility for a minimum of ten days, they also have to then do two concerts within the State of Missouri.”
Those credits would be for 30% of tour or rehearsal expenses, capped at $1 million if expenses are less than $4 million. No taxpayer could get a credit greater than $2 million for expenses between $4 and $8 million; nor greater than $3 million for expenses exceeding $8 million. Combined credits are limited to $8 million per fiscal year.
The film tax incentives would expire at the end of 2029 unless the legislature votes to extend them. The tour and rehearsal credits would expire at the end of 2030 unless extended.
The bill now moves to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Other Legislation Given Final Approval
HB 131 allows the salaries of state employees to be paid in biweekly installments, as designated by the Commissioner of the Office of Administration. Supporters say the bill allows for flexibility in pay structure by state agencies which will be an incentive for workforce attraction. The bill is common sense and promotes fiscal responsibility, helping struggling state agencies and employees.
SCR 7 creates the America 250 Missouri Commission. The Commission's principal purpose shall be to plan, promote, and implement public celebrations and commemorations of the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the 250th Anniversary of the United States of America.
SCR 8 designates Campbell, Missouri, as the Peach Capital of Missouri.
HB 402 modifies several provisions relating to health care, including: (1) Rare Kidney Disease Awareness Month; (2) do-not-resuscitate orders; (3) patient examinations; (4) health care advisory committees; (5) health professional loans and grants; (6) the Missouri Parkinson's Disease Registry Act; (7) voluntary non-opioid directive forms; (8) licensing of certain health care professionals; (9) prescription labeling requirements; (10) pharmacy settlements; (11) rural emergency hospitals; (12) at-risk behavioral health patients; (13) surgical smoke plume; (14) county or township-owned nursing homes; (15) supplemental welfare assistance; (16) fentanyl testing; (17) mental health services for vulnerable persons; (18) notarization requirements for certain mental health detentions; and (19) lead poisoning.
SB 24 creates the "Missouri First Responder Mental Health Initiative Act." The bill expands the voluntary caner benefits pool to allow other first responders, specifically emergency medical technician-basic, emergency medical technician-paramedic, and telecommunicators, to have access to benefits through the pool for exposure to a diagnosable trauma stress event, or diagnosable cumulative post-traumatic stress injury over the course of a career. The act creates new provisions relating to communications during peer support counseling programs for certain first responders. With certain exceptions, detailed in the act, a communication made by a first responder or peer support advisor in a peer support counseling session, as well as any oral or written information conveyed in the peer support counseling session, shall be confidential and shall not be disclosed by any person participating in the peer support counseling session or released to any person or entity.
HB 15 is a supplemental appropriations bill that authorizes more than $2 billion spending for the Fiscal Year 2023 state operating budget.
HB 17 re-appropriates nearly $431 million in funding for state parks around Missouri.
HB 18 appropriates nearly $778 million for maintenance and repair of state property.
HB 19 allocates approximately $606.3 million for capital improvement projects.
HB 20 appropriates nearly $3.3 billion in funding from the American Recovery Plan Act.
In closing I would like to encourage my readers to continue to be involved in the affairs of government. Thomas Jefferson once stated that liberty is best preserved by the people themselves stating that they are the “only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty”. I whole heartedly agree with Thomas Jefferson on this issue. It is always my intent to keep my constituents informed and to retain open transparency. If you have any questions or concerns please contact my office at any time. You can reach my office by calling 573-751-1487 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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