Missouri Legislature approves $275 million in extra spending

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Legislature has approved an extra $275 million in spending in the current budget year to avoid cuts in programs for the poor and disabled, cross-state passenger train service and Capitol security.

The supplemental appropriation bill, given final House and Senate approval Tuesday, provides additional spending authority for the 2003 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The bill now goes to Gov. Bob Holden.

The state has been operating under an $18.9 billion budget for the 2003 fiscal year, from which Holden already has cut $225 million because of a shortfall in state revenue.

Of the new $275 million in spending, two-thirds comes from the federal government and less than $69 million from general state tax revenue.

Most of the money goes toward growth in the state's Medicaid health care program for the poor, elderly and disabled. The program generally is considered an entitlement for all who qualify under federal and state laws.

Included in the extra Medicaid expenditures are services that courts have ordered to continue, despite the legislature's attempt to cut them.

That means continued dental and eye care for adults on Medicaid. It also means doctors and other medical providers who treat both Medicaid and federal Medicare patients will not see a cut in the state Medicaid reimbursements.

The legislation includes $3.2 million in state and federal funds to partially restore a cut in monthly "general relief" checks to about 10,000 low-income Missourians.

Because of the budget shortfall, the state Department of Social Services reduced the $80 monthly checks to $9 in February. Those payments would retroactively be raised to $70 monthly and remain at that level through June under the bill approved Tuesday.

General relief provides cash to adults who are ineligible for other government benefits or are awaiting approval for federal disability benefits.

The bill also includes $800,000 to continue twice-daily Amtrak passenger train service between St. Louis and Kansas City through June.

Amtrak had threatened to halt one of the trains March 1 without an additional $1.2 million. But Amtrak agreed to unstaff depots in Kirkwood and Jefferson City and impose a $5 per trip surcharge on the Missouri route to help cover the difference.

The legislation also includes $75,000 to continue paying private security guards at the Capitol and other state office buildings in Jefferson City through June.

The money is slightly less than requested by Capitol Police, which would have to make up any staffing shortage by working overtime or by relying on help from other police agencies, such as the Highway Patrol or Water Patrol. The additional appropriation does not account for any extra security that would be required if the nation's terrorist alert level is raised due to a war with Iraq.

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Spending bill is HB15.

On the Net:

Missouri Legislature: http:/www.moga.state.mo.us

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