Missouri legislature sends $26 billion budget to Gov. Jay Nixon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. –  The Missouri General Assembly sent its $26 billion budget to Gov. Jay Nixon, including provisions that would cut social spending but without one that would require a vote of the people before the state could spend money on a new football stadium in St. Louis.

When negotiators met Wednesday evening, there was a split between carrying House and Senate plans. The House plan funded the state’s largest social programs line-by-line as they had in years past. But the Senate plan looked to provide them lump sums with cuts, allowing agencies more control of their spending but less money.

“This is a very conservative budget,” said House Speaker John Diehl, R-St  Louis.

They settled on line-by-line budgeting, but with a $200 million cut. The proposal would begin 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.

The proposal was quietly opposed by Sen. Bob Dixon, a Republican of Springfield.

“This is very likely to have an exasperated and devastating effect on my region,” he said. “When you have managed care, there’s no doubt access will be reduced.”

While the debate over social spending had dominated much of the talk while House and Senate negotiators met in private, when they emerged in public, the most heated debate came over the House’s stubborn refusal to consider a Senate plan that would require a state vote on a new stadium.

The debate pitted two Republicans – Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City and Diehl of St. Louis – against each other. Diehl, on the phone with House Budget Committee Tom Flanigan’s staff, refused to cede, citing concerns about the potential harm changes to the Office of Administration’s authority to pay its bonds could have on the state’s 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.”

Speaking on the Senate floor, Silvey joined Sen. Rob Schaaf — often foes over other issues like Medicaid expansion – in opposition to the bill, and accused Diehl of pulling Flanigan’s strings.

“I’m disappointed that the speaker, who is from St. Louis, who is insisting that language is coming out. He must want us to spend the money on the new stadium,” Schaaf said. “It’s obvious they want to put us $200 million into debt.”

Schaaf said he would be fling a constitutional objection to the proposal.

After a late night conference committee, budget staff finished the bill at 6:20 a.m. on Thursday, less than four hours before lawmakers were set to return to begin votes.

With a vote on Thursday, lawmakers believe Nixon will have to either sign or veto the measure before they leave town in May (giving them the opportunity to override his vetoes before September).

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