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Missouri Senate passes budget funding for schools, state employee raises and Medicaid

 In a nearly empty Missouri Senate Chamber, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, stands and speaks with Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville.
Sarah Kellogg
St. Louis Public Radio
In a nearly empty Missouri Senate Chamber, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, stands and speaks with Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville.

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday approved a supplemental budget that includes funding for schools, state worker raises and Medicaid.

The budget bill, approved 25-7, was the first one passed by the Senate this session after weeks of acrimony, mostly over congressional redistricting, which is still pending.

Because changes were made by the Senate, the bill needs another vote from the House before going to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk. The original goal from the governor’s office was to pass this budget by Feb. 1.

This bill contains a 5.5% cost-of-living adjustment for all employees, along with enough funding for departments to raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour, if they choose.

While Parson’s initial proposal had enough funding for departments to raise the baseline wage to $15 an hour, the House modified that, only allocating enough money for some, but not all, minimum-wage employees to earn that amount. Others would have been paid $12 an hour.

“Basically we’re really wanting to say that we are giving you the ability to be able to hire folks in these much-needed areas, retain your employees and go to the market rate,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In addition to money for raises, the bill includes almost $2 billion in federal funding to go to schools. Missouri is one of the last states in the country to approve spending this money and has until March 24 to do so.

The budget bill also funds the state’s Medicaid program, including its expansion. One modification made by the Senate prohibits these dollars from going to clinics or other facilities that provide abortions, other than a hospital. It also stops funding to affiliates of facilities that provide abortions. Currently, no state funding is used to provide abortions.

Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, presented an amendment to the budget bill that would have stripped that modification.

She called the overall supplemental bill an important piece of legislation, but said this language would remove funding to Planned Parenthood and access to reproductive health care.

“This language continues to be put into our budget bill to make sure not only that we do not fund abortion, which we do not, this is not about abortion, this is about taking away contraception from low-income women around the state,” Schupp said.

Schupp and other senators also worried the provision could put Missouri out of compliance with federal law.

Despite the amendment failing, Democrats ultimately voted to pass the budget bill.

Another area of contention around the bill was a Senate committee’s decision to remove a new $75 million program to address learning loss due to the pandemic. Some committee members in favor of removing it said it needed more vetting before passing the chamber.

Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, who voted no on the overall bill, spoke on his disappointment that the program was taken out.

“I would hope that this chamber would understand that kids and families really need this, and not all school districts can handle this intense tutoring on top of the training for kids,” Brattin said.

Hegeman said there would be other opportunities to discuss the program in the future.

Copyright 2022 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is a first year graduate student at the University of Missouri studying public affairs reporting. She spent her undergraduate days as a radio/television major and reported for KBIA. In addition to reporting shifts, Sarah also hosted KBIA’s weekly education show Exam, was an afternoon newscaster and worked on the True/False podcast. Growing up, Sarah listened to episodes of Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! with her parents during long car rides. It’s safe to say she was destined to end up in public radio.