Missouri Senate passes 2012 budget amid warnings of problems for next year

By Jordan Shapiro

JEFFERSON CITY – As the Missouri Senate passed the 2012 budget Wednesday, some senators were already worried about a potential budget gap for next year.

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, said the use of one-time federal funds in this year’s budget will create a gap that must soon be addressed by the General Assembly.

“We are going to have to come to terms with what we are going to go with what I would call a hole in our budget when the federal money runs out,” Crowell said.

Senate Appropriations Chairman, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, agreed with Crowell, but said the funding problem should be addressed next year rather than letting it affect this year’s budget.

“There will be a hole, but … we are better off waiting until we have more accurate information to see what that amount is,” Schaefer said.

By passing the budget $23.2 billion budget Wednesday, the Senate ensured the language that prevents the governor from charging his travel expenses to other state agencies will remain intact. House Budget Chairman, Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, put words within the budget preventing Nixon from charging his air travel to other agencies, a practice he began shortly after becoming governor. There was no debate on the matter in Senate on Wednesday.

The amended budget heads back to the House, where it can either adopt the Senate’s changes or conference with them on their differences. Silvey said the House is ready to push its original proposal.

“I will be advocating for the House position on everything,” Silvey said.

Because the conference committees normally cannot exceed differences between the two chambers, the Senate’s actions nearly guarantee that Gov. Nixon will be prevented from raiding other agencies for his travel and staffing. The legislative action came after the governor spent $400,000 of other agencies money for airplane travel over a two-year period.

The budget will go back to the House, where they will vote on changes made in the Senate. If the House does not accept the changes, then both chambers will head to a conference committee to hash out an agreement. The General Assembly has until May 6 to pass all budget bills.