When the Missouri Legislature reconvened this January, we knew one of the biggest obstacles facing the state in the upcoming year would be balancing the budget with increasingly limited funds. Unfortunately, federal stimulus dollars, which in years past had been used to balance the budget, were no longer available, and thus the Missouri House faced some very difficult decisions. Cuts had to made in some areas to ensure vital services could still be provided in other areas. All the while, we as a legislative body knew we must avoid placing heavier burdens on you the, Missouri taxpayer.
This week the Missouri House completed the difficult task of formulating and approving the Missouri state budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The 13 appropriation bills which comprise the budget passed the Missouri House with overwhelming bipartisan support, and now face debate in the Missouri Senate. Despite the many challenges and difficult decisions the $24 billion budget passed this week provides the state with a solid foundation and a path by which we can gradually break free of the economic woes that currently cloud our great state.
Education by far is one of the greatest financial responsibilities of the state. Without a well-educated citizenry, jobs requiring a skilled labor force remain vacant. Over $5.3 billion in the FY 2013 budget is dedicated to education. This money includes over $3.0009 billion for the School Foundation Formula; this is nearly a $5 million increase. The Missouri House was also able to restore the $106 million in cuts recommended by the Governor for higher education. This restoration saves middle-class families from continued increases in state tuition.
The health and well-being of Missouri’s elderly and less fortunate is also of great importance. The MO Healthnet program, which is the single largest program in the State of Missouri, will receive a budget of over $8.5 billion, an increase of $162.6 million. Also, included in the proposed FY 2013 budget is $609 million for our state’s nursing home industry and $611 million for in-home services. Approximately 437 million for non-emergency transportation services such as OATS and $45.5 million for Area Agencies on Aging and programs such as Meals-on-Wheels are also included.
While we must ensure that Missouri’s future generations receive world-class education, and Missouri’s past generations receive proper care during their golden year, we must not neglect the economic engines that power Missouri’s economy today; agriculture and small businesses. Such measures as $38 million in aid to private land owners for local soil and water conservation efforts as well as $1.36 million for innovation centers and the Missouri Manufacturing Program help provide sustainability and growth to integral sectors of Missouri’s economy.
As you are well aware, budgeting is a difficult process. This is especially true during tough economic times. When money is limited, not everything can be funded at levels that we all want. Necessary decisions made to balance a budget are never easy, and sometimes not popular. However, when we work together to make wise fiscal decisions we can create a budget that does not endanger vital services and programs and balances the many interests of the state.
For more information about the appropriation bills mentioned above or about any others that have been introduced please visit the House of Representatives website, www.house.mo.gov. As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House of Representatives.