Senate Appropriations Advances Budget
After a very contentious week in the Missouri Senate, the Appropriations Committee approved the 13 bills that make up the FY 2018 operating budget. The bills will be debated this week by the full Senate.
Although the Senate mostly agreed with the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee made a few significant changes to the House recommendations. As a result, some important issues may need to be hashed out in a conference committee.
Senior and Home & Community-Based Services / Circuit Breaker
Perhaps the most significant area of difference between the House and Senate is how they might fund Home and Community Based services and senior care services. In the original Governor’s proposal, there was an eligibility change proposed to move from 21 to 27 assessment points for clients to be eligible for services. The House moved this back to 21 points, paying for it with a newly created fund, the Missouri Senior Service Protection Fund.
This fund would be created by HCB 3, which would eliminate the circuit breaker tax credit for low-income seniors and Missourians with disabilities who rent their homes, and direct the savings to the Missouri Senior Service Protection Fund.
However, HCB 3 stalled this week, and the Senate committee moved the eligibility criteria to 24 points. The Chambers could still take the House position if other ways are found to move money to the Senior protection fund.
Instead of pitting the needs of vulnerable populations against each other, lawmakers could take action on any number of revenue policies that would stop the bleeding and allow us to invest in Missourians, including:
- Delaying implementation of the SB 509 tax cuts, which are scheduled to start in 2018 and are impacting the revenue available in the FY 2018 budget;
- Repealing the business income deduction provision of SB 509, which would cost as much as $200 million per year when fully implemented and is recognized across the political spectrum as bad tax policy that simply creates winners and losers while doing nothing to incentivize economic growth
- Fixing the hole created by the changes to the corporate apportionment formula, which is responsible for reducing corporate tax by more than 60% since FY 2015.
The Senate Appropriations Committee agreed with the Governor’s original budget recommendation for K-12 education, which is about $45 million less than the budget passed by the House. The Senate Committee’s recommendation does not fully fund the formula.
It appears the Senate will agree to the House plan to fund the expansion of managed care statewide. While that avoids a fight with the House, there is at least one Senator that may try to hold the budget bill up because of it.
Next week the Senate will try to move the bills, but if this week is any indication it could take a lot of time. Senators from both parties have been using significant floor time to slow the process. This seems to have caused significant tension between the Senators that may only grow as time begins to run out on the session.