Missouri's $27 billion state budget is on its way to the Senate.
The House Thursday passed all 13 budget bills, which includes a nearly $9 million cut to higher education.
For that reason, several state representatives voted against the higher ed bill, HB 2003.
"I believe that we've spent more time over the last few months talking about Melissa Click than we have spent talking about the important issues that face our state," said Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia. "I'm starting to wonder if Melissa Click is the reason why our infrastructure is in disrepair. … I'm starting to wonder if she's the reason why we don't see the job growth that we should at times. … I'm starting to wonder if she's the reason why we're having difficulty expanding access to health care to 300,000 Missourians."
Click is the former Mizzou professor who was recently fired after video footage showed her "calling for muscle" to prevent a photo journalist from interviewing protesters during last fall's racial unrest. She is appealing her dismissal.
Speaker Pro-tem Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, argued that the state should not reward the University of Missouri's "bad behavior."
"MU is going to learn a hard lesson," he said. "I think everyone in this body wants MU to succeed, but the problems that are out of control at the MU campus need to be fixed."
The GOP-controlled House also voted to cut $380,000 in Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood.
"The taxpayers in the state have made it very clear; they do not want their tax dollars going to support abortion services," said Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville. "That’s the purpose of that language."
Democrats argued that the anti-Planned Parenthood language is too broadly written, and that Missouri could lose all of its federal Medicaid dollars as a result. The state budget also diverts $88 million from Medicaid into a surplus fund that could be used to pay for other state needs, including transportation.
Original story - The Missouri House has given first-round approval to the 13 bills that make up next year's $27 billion state budget.
Mizzou takes another hit
Efforts to restore funding to the University of Missouri System fell short as well. In fact, more money was siphoned off by lawmakers, as they approved an amendment to move $1 million from the Mizzou campus to Lincoln University. The funding was also specifically designated for agriculture research.
Lincoln University has "a farm in Cole County,” said the amendment’s sponsor, Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City. “They do a lot of research …they’re eligible for matches from the federal government that they haven’t gotten, because they haven’t been funded for ag research by this body.”
Tax credit system briefly threatened
An amendment was floated to the bonds and state debt budget bill that would have done away with all tax credits in Missouri, as a means of increasing the revenue needed to help pay down the state’s overall bond debt. However, the sponsor withdrew the proporal after admitting that it would have also eliminated several benevolent tax credits for such things as food banks.
Language targeting undocumented students stays
An amendment by Rep. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, would have removed language barring financial aid and in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants wanting to enroll in college.
“These students were brought here as children and had very little influence over the decision-making process,” she said. “We can educate anyone and everyone who wants to get a decent education, who wants to put that education to good use in (Missouri) … I’d rather see them go (to college) here, and stay here, where they’re going to get jobs and pay taxes.”
Her amendment failed 46-112, and was strongly opposed by the GOP majority.
“We keep hearing the left speak out of both sides of their mouths,” said Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville. “We have a crisis for students within the inner cities of Kansas City and St. Louis who cannot afford to go to college, but yet we want to put amendments forth like this that would take away from our Missouri citizens that need higher education to lift themselves out of poverty, (and instead) allow people who have knowingly broke the laws to come here and receive in-state tuition … it’s absurd.”
Defunding executions easily blocked
A rather interesting attempt was made to halt executions in Missouri.
Rep. Jeremy Lafaver, D-Kansas City, floated an amendment to the Department of Corrections budget that stated:
"No funds … shall be paid to any entity that engages in stem cell research, or performs medical procedures that end human life, or counsels women to have a medical procedure that ends a human life."
Thus, in addition to being anti-abortion, it would have zeroed out funding for carrying out executions of death-row inmates. It failed 34-105.
Debate allowed on Medicaid expansion
Somewhat surprisingly, House Republicans allowed Democrats to offer an amendment to expand Medicaid, and allowed nearly a half-hour for debate. In the end, though, everyone knew the amendment would fail, which it did 37-109.
The Medicaid expansion amendment would have drawn down $1.8 billion in federal dollars from Washington, and it was sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Gardner, D-St. Louis.
“We’re about increasing health services to each and every one of our constituents,” she said. “This saves us money, (and) this brings development into our state.”
Fellow Democrat Judy Morgan of Kansas City asked, “How about if we listen to the Missouri Hospital Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce? They’ve been advocating for Medicaid expansion since Day One. And it’s not just the chambers of commerce in big cities … it’s small towns like West Plains and Branson, and suburbs like Lee’s Summit.”
Republicans, including budget chair Tom Flanigan of Carthage, advocated the exact opposite, cutting Medicaid further.
“We (already) have to pay $500 million (on Medicaid program) by the end of June this year,” he said. “It’s a big lug on our budget, (and) it prevents us from doing a lot of good work (elsewhere).”
Fellow Republican Justin Alferman of Hermann said Medicaid has long been too heavy a burden on state government.
“In 2005, when we had to cut 100,000 people off of the Medicaid system, it wasn’t because we were heartless, it wasn’t because we’re mean, it was because we simply could not afford the program anymore,” Alferman said.
Toward the end of the Medicaid debate, Rep. Jon Carpenter, D-Gladstone, made his argument by quoting “a famous American:”
“I’m quite liberal and getting much more liberal on health care and other things. I really say ‘What’s the purpose of a country if you’re not going to have defensive-end health care?’ if you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it – it’s all over; it’s no good. So I’m very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care; I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better.”
Carpenter attributed that quote to Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president.
That was followed by Jim Hansen of Pike County, attributing another quote to Trump: “If elected, I will repeal every aspect of Obamacare,” to which Hanson added, “which does include Medicaid expansion.”
Cuts to Nixon’s office
A bout of bipartisanship broke out when House bill 2012 came up, which in part provides funding to Gov. Jay Nixon’s office. Fellow Democrat Genise Montecillo of St. Louis offered a series of amendments that transferred $214,000 from Nixon’s office to the Parents as Teachers program.
“For the past couple of years we have done a decrease to the governor’s budget,” Montecillo said, “and what’s happened is he’s later gone in and he’s raided those funds from other departments, primarily a lot that have to do with DESE, children’s funds, etc.”
The amendments passed overwhelmingly on voice votes.
The House will bring all 13 budget bills back up for another round of votes before sending them to the Missouri Senate. That is expected to happen by Thursday.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport