JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — The state’s new $35 billion budget is on its way to the governor’s desk, but it doesn’t include funding for the voter-approved expansion of Medicaid in Missouri.
Lawmakers approved the budget with one week left in this year’s regular session. In it are 2% pay raises for all state employees, $48 million of CARES Act funding to cover the state’s portion of overpaid unemployment benefits and $10 million headed to community colleges. Medicaid expansion, which could end up in court, was a no go.
“If we really wanted to invest in things that we will know will grow our state, we should be committing to Medicaid expansion and appropriately funding it,” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said on the House floor Thursday.
Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion last summer, allowing an additional 275,000 Missourians to become eligible, but lawmakers voted not to fund it.
“In my mind, there is not a need to enroll that population if there is no money to provide that benefit to them,” House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said. “Our intent is not to provide an appropriation for Medicaid expansion.”
The topic has been a battle for the General Assembly, as the governor requested lawmakers to fund it earlier this session. It was estimated to cost $1.9 billion to fund with less than $130 million coming from the state.
“It’s going to get funded, one way or another, we’ve expanded Medicaid,” Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said. “I think it will be in court either way. I wish it would have been completely funded and we could have worked from that perspective.”
The decision to expand the Medicaid population now is in Gov. Mike Parson’s hands. Expansion goes into effect, according to the constitution, July 1.
“I’m inclined that he will determine that Medicaid expansion cannot be implemented without a corresponding appropriation for which there is none,” Smith said.
Any Missourian making less than $18,000 a year would be eligible this summer, if they are allowed into the program.
“The governor knows that, the department knows that,” Merideth said. “They are going to have to go forward because they follow the law.”
In the budget sent to the governor, money to cover those millions of dollars in overpayments for unemployment.
“I mean, people are struggling to make ends meet,” Rizzo said. “We can all get onboard with the repayment, that the overwhelming majority of the body agrees needs to happen, both the federal and state portion.”
That $48 million could only be used for overpayments if lawmakers pass legislation. Currently, a measure is waiting for the Senate’s approval to waive both the state and federal portion of overpayments. The House previously passed the bill.
Other items in the budget:
- $20 million from coronavirus relief funds to meat processing and facilities and development
- $700,000 of general revenue to hemp fiber producer startups
- $10,000 of general revenue to community colleges across the state
- $143 million in homeowners’ assistance
- $1 million for the state’s witness protection program
- 3.7% in aid to the state’s four-year universities
- The budget also includes around $3 million to hire 53 public defenders for the state to clear the state’s backlog.
The governor has until the end of June to approve or veto the budget.
Next week is the last week of session and in the House, Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, said he’s going to put the gas hike on the calendar. The 2.5 cent increase over five years would be the first hike in nearly 25 years, with the revenue going to the state’s roads and bridges.
In the Senate, Sen. Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said the Second Amendment Preservation Act will be on the floor, which protects Missourians from federal gun laws.
Session ends Friday, May 14.