JEFFERSON CITY — The General Assembly approved a $26 billion spending plan Thursday, early enough that Gov. Jay Nixon will be forced to act on the budget before the Legislature adjourns in mid-May.
From the start of the legislative session, leaders said they wanted to force Nixon to be able to override any budget vetoes before the legislature adjourns.
House Speaker John Diehl, R-St. Louis County, said the objective was to prevent the governor from spending the entire summer campaigning against the legislature’s spending plan before their fall veto session.
“As you know over the past couple years, we’ve kind of had what I’ve always called these summers of discontent,” Diehl said.
Under Missouri’s Constitution, the governor can reduce or eliminate separate items in the budget without having to veto the entire bill.
The final version approved by the Legislature is slightly higher than the initial package of recommendations the governor had presented to lawmakers in January.
The final House-Senate conference committee version backed off from steep cuts in social services spending that had been approved by the Senate.
Elementary and secondary education are set to receive a $76 million increase in general revenue funds, to go toward K-12 public schools.
Mental health services also received an increase of more than $25 million. Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, supported the General Assembly’s decision to boost the funds.
“Mental health is vital to our state,” he said. “These are people who cannot take care of themselves.”
However, social services received a $46 million budget cut in general revenue funds, upsetting many Medicaid expansion supporters. With a final vote of 85-67, the cut was one of the day’s most heavily debated issues.
House Democrats, who also opposed the cuts to social services, blasted Republican lawmakers for passing the budget in a matter of hours.
“With $26 billion of taxpayer money at stake, you would think GOP leaders would treat the process with seriousness it deserves,” said House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis City. “Apparently, you would be wrong.”
The governor now has until early May — just days before the Legislature’s adjournment — to act on the budget bills.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Nixon praised the General Assembly for boosting funding for K-12 public schools, but did not give any indication as to whether or not he’ll sign the budget.