Missouri lawmakers hit the ground running following their annual mid-March getaway.
The House spent the week debating and amending the state budget and passed the nearly $28-billion spending plan on Thursday. It increases K-12 funding by nearly $99 million and restores cuts to higher education proposed earlier this year by Gov. Eric Greitens.
Another budget bill, though, is already on its way to the governor's desk. The Senate passed the annual supplemental budget, which makes adjustments to the current year's spending plan. The bill increases the fiscal year 2018 budget by $704.6 million, with the bulk of the hike — $621.7 million — going toward Medicaid expenses.
The House also gave first-round approval to a bill that would establish 50-50 child custody arrangements, known as “equal parenting,” as preferred state policy in most cases. It needs another vote by the full House before moving to the Senate.
The upper chamber passed a bill that shrinks the annual cap on historic preservation tax credits to $90 million, down from the current $140 million. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Dan Hegeman of Cosby, said reducing the cap will help the state fund other needs.
“Such as higher education, elementary and secondary education, or — more importantly in my mind — senior services and the senior-services fund, our folks in nursing homes,” he said.
The Senate also gave initial approval to a bill to cut state income taxes to 5.25 percent, down from the current 5.9 percent. It needs another vote by the full Senate before moving to the House, where Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said he looks forward to receiving the bill from the Senate.
“This bill is going to be treated no differently than the other bills where we had disagreements between the House and the Senate,” he told reporters Thursday. “I’m sure there’ll be some differences in the two products, and that’s what our process is designed to work out.”
The House version of the bill goes further, cutting state income-tax rates to an even five percent for both individuals and businesses; it would also provide more money for roads and bridges by increasing fees on license plates and auto registration. The Senate version would raise the state’s fuel tax by 10 cents a gallon.
Next week, the Senate is expected to resume debate on a bill being blocked by Democrats that would require food stamp recipients to be employed or actively looking for work. And the House committee that could recommend impeachment for Greitens heads into its final week of investigation, with a deadline of April 9.
The committee’s chair, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, has said they could extend the deadline if needed. The committee has three options: recommend articles of impeachment, censure or take no action.
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