Heated debate over Rams spending, not social spending, held up budget conference committee

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After more than a week of behind-the-scenes negotiations, a conference committee advanced the Missouri General Assembly’s $26 billion budget proposal with little time to spare if they hope to get it on Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk before the weekend.

A Senate proposal to provide lump-sum payments to the state agencies that deliver social services was scraped in exchange for $200 million in cuts and beginning the statewide adoption of managed care by 2016.

Under the compromise plan, recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients and children would be able to be covered under managed care rather than fee-for-service.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said while he did not get everything he hoped to, he viewed the cuts he did make as a win.

“We have to bend that cost curve” on social spending,” he said.

Even though it was perhaps the biggest discrepancy between the House and Senate budget in advance of the conference committee meeting, the most contentious debate came over language the Senate has proposed in its budget for the Office of Administration that would bar it from extending bond payments to pay for a new stadium in St. Louis — a debate that pitted Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City against House Speaker John Diehl of St. Louis.

For more than an hour, as the lobbyists and bureaucrats who had desperately hoarded seats in the hearing room gave up and slowly trickled out, conferees waited for one final signature as a coalition around Silvey waited for a deal between him and Diehl’s staff.

Ultimately, Democratic Sen. Kiki Curls gave the plan the final signature it needed to advance to the consideration of the entire General Assembly.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, said the House position came on advice of attorney, citing concerns about the state’s AAA credit rating.

“We have House position that was put forth by attorneys. They advised me they we take the position we should take. I followed the attorneys,” he said. “I’m not an attorney.”

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