By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
It’s crunch time for state budget negotiators with the constitutional deadline to pass a state budget fast approaching in Jefferson City.
State Sen. Dan Hegeman of Cosby again serves as the Senate Appropriations Committee chair and says the budget at the end of this session looks much better than many thought it would at the beginning of this session.
“Last year at this time we were worried about the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 and how it was going to affect our economy. So, we prepared a very conservative budget last year,” Hegeman tells St. Joseph Post.
Hegeman gives a lot of credit to fellow Republican, Gov. Mike Parson, for negotiating all the unknowns which faced the state during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“You can attribute the fact that we have seen positive growth in our economy to the governor of the state of Missouri, Mike Parson,” according to Hegeman. “I think he managed the situation well and we’re bearing the fruits of that right now.”
Hegeman says state revenue grew by 3½% to 4% this past year.
“As a hole, I think the state of Missouri is robust, resilient, and has weathered this situation well,” Hegeman says.
Hegeman concedes some sectors of the Missouri economy haven’t done as well as others. He says the legislature has used CARES Act funding to help and awaits word from Washington on how the legislature can allocate the latest coronavirus aid passed by Congress.
“We are not adjusting much of those funds in this year’s fiscal budget,” Hegeman says. “We’ll either address those in a special session or an extraordinary session or in next year’s regular session in January.”
At present, legislators must work on the state budget for the next fiscal year. Both the Senate and House have approved $34 billion budgets, but the make-up of the budgets differ and those differences must be resolved and a final spending blueprint for the next fiscal year passed by the end of the legislative day Friday.
Both chambers agree on one thing: not to expand Medicaid. Lawmakers took a controversial step when they refused to fund Medicaid expansion even though voters approved expansion. Gov. Parson had included Medicaid expansion in his budget proposal.
Hegeman insists though voters approved Medicaid expansion that doesn’t require the legislature to fund it.
“The court made it very clear that the legislature still had the appropriations authority over whether this expansion of Medicaid happens or not,” Hegeman says. “So, there’s some discussion around that.”
It appears certain the decision will trigger a lawsuit.
Hegeman says the budget approved by the Senate last week addresses the state’s biggest needs.
“It’s a budget that I think will address many of the needs in the state of Missouri and some of them that we have been wanting to address for some time,” Hegeman says.
The Senate budget includes $3.56 billion in state aid to schools and $113 million for school bus transportation.