After several long days of negotiations and discussion, the House and Senate finally worked out their differences and gave final approval to the Fiscal Year 2016 state operating budget. The bills now move to the governor’s desk a full two weeks ahead of the constitutionally-mandated budget deadline.
During the budget process, the Senate made significant changes to the House version of the state spending plan, including a lump-sum budgeting approach that included 4 to 6 percent cuts to health, mental health and social service programs. These changes drew scrutiny on the House side and even lost the backing of leadership in the Senate as negotiations progressed. The final version of the budget approved by both chambers moves much closer to the original House spending proposal.
The $26 billion plan that will take effect on July 1 of this year does include record levels of funding for elementary and secondary education. In total the state is now spending just under $5.8 billion on public K-12 schools, which represents more than 22.2 percent of total state spending. More than $3.2 billion of that funding is state general revenue, which represents more than 36 percent of the $8.85 billion state dollars over which the legislature has direct spending authority. The budget also includes significant boosts to several important education programs, and sizeable funding increases to the state’s public colleges and universities.
In addition to balancing the budget, we also took action to protect Missourians from some municipalities that have exhibited “predatory practices” to raise revenue through excessive traffic tickets. The bill approved by the House is designed to shut down “speed traps” by limiting the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic violations.
The plan that now has to move back to the Senate for another round of approval, would limit the amount of revenue municipalities can generate from traffic tickets to 20 percent, which is down from the current limit of 30 percent. The House version of the bill inserts additional protections for Missourians by ending the process of courts issuing failure to appear charges against defendants for missing court dates on minor traffic violations.
For any questions regarding this or any other legislation making its way through the Missouri State legislature, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Please contact me at: 201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 411-2, Jefferson City, Mo. 65101-6806; by phone at 573-751-3455 or by email at email@example.com.
This report is filed at the end of each week during the legislative session. This report was filed April 24, 2015.