Several years ago, I walked into a fellow legislator’s office to ask her a question, and on her desk I saw a four-feet tall stack of about 20-30 books. When I asked what the books were for, she said, “I’m on the Budget Committee, and that’s the budget.” There is no committee assignment that is as time-intensive as serving on Budget. In numerous daily meetings, that committee pours over the budget, book by book, page by page, line by line to decide how to best spend your tax money.
This week was budget week in the Missouri House. When the House debates and passes the budget, we actually pass about 20 different bills. Each bill decides how much money each department can spend and how they can spend it. When I arrived in the legislature in 2015, the Missouri Budget was about $26 billion. Now in 2021, our budget has grown to about $32 billion. We instituted an income tax cut in 2018, so it shows reducing taxes can spur economic growth. The largest portion of this year’s budget is social services (Medicaid / Welfare) (46%), closely followed by K-12 education (25%).
The largest argument on the budget was about Medicaid Expansion funding. The Medicaid program provides free health care for those who are not self-sufficient enough to take care of themselves – the elderly, sick children, and the handicapped. Medicaid Expansion would add in able-bodied people based on income as a component of Obamacare. While Medicaid Expansion passed in last year’s election, there was no way to fund it in the ballot measure, so there were strong concerns that starting Medicaid Expansion would lead to a budget crisis for the traditional Medicaid population and in other areas. Instead, the Budget Committee offered HB21, which provides additional funding for the truly needy – nursing homes, in-home care providers, schools, and the developmentally disabled.
Incidentally, Medicaid Expansion only passed in seven of our state’s 114 counties. The other 107 counties soundly rejected it, including all counties in NW Missouri. The seven that passed it were our most urban and highly populated areas that tend to like big government programs, and are the most heavily influenced by the money and power of the health care industry.
Until next time, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family.