Missouri lawmakers pass $48 billion budget | Health, Medicine and Fitness

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s Republican-led legislature passed a state budget of about $48 billion on Friday, with additional funding for teacher pay, school transportation, Medicaid and public colleges and universities.

The budget package won broadly bipartisan support, although some Republicans criticized spending so much money on government programs.

The GOP’s heartburn over rising spending was eased somewhat with a $500 million tax refund added to the budget on Thursday.

Middle-income taxpayers are expected to get tax credits of up to $1,000 for married couples filing jointly or $500 for single adults under the proposal, although the exact amount available per taxpayer is unclear. unclear and also depends on the tax liability of individuals.

“It’s giving money back to taxpayers when we’re in a situation where we have too much,” House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith said.

Under the program, refunds would only be given to people earning less than $150,000 and couples earning less than $300,000 a year. Refunds will be pro-rated, meaning taxpayers may not receive the full amount if enough people qualify.

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People have to pay taxes to qualify for a refund. In practice, people would receive a refund of $1 for every $1 of tax owed until their tax bill reached the refund limit of $500.

Other budget provisions include a new program to raise teachers’ salaries to a minimum of $38,000 a year, with the state meeting 70% of those costs if local school districts agree to contribute the remaining 30%. .

Parents and other caregivers could get up to $1,500 in grants or reimbursements to pay for tutoring and other resources to help K-12 students catch up during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers have increased funding to fully pay the state’s share of the costs of K-12 public buses, which have been underfunded since 1991. The extra money could help avoid long walks to the school for K-12 students and four-day weeks.

“Additional state transportation dollars allow school leaders to transfer local funds to other high priority areas to further support students, teachers and staff,” Education Commissioner Margie said. Vandeven in a statement.

Public four-year colleges and universities are set to get a 5.5% funding boost, plus tens of millions more for construction projects on university and college campuses across the state.

Republican lawmakers caved and included money to pay for Medicaid expansion under the Federal Health Care Act of 2010 signed by former President Barack Obama, as approved by Missouri taxpayers in 2020.

Despite voter approval, GOP lawmakers — who have warned against promising more health care without knowing if the state will be able to afford it — have continued to fight the expansion, refusing to fund it last year.

They conceded after a judge last year ordered Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to allow newly eligible adults to enroll.

Republicans also once again banned all public funding from going to Planned Parenthood centers, including clinics that don’t offer abortions.

Lawmakers were able to stop money going to Planned Parenthood in fiscal year 2019 by waiving some federal funding to avoid requiring clinics to be reimbursed if low-income patients come there for checkup. births, cancer screenings and other preventive care.

But the Missouri Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that lawmakers violated the constitution by changing the policy through the state budget, requiring the state to reimburse Planned Parenthood for health care provided to Medicaid patients.

Republicans have said they hope this year will be different as they work to pass laws outside of the budget banning public funds for abortions. Democrats have argued that the effort is still unconstitutional.

Yamelsie Rodríguez, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, called on Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration to step in and enforce federal Medicaid law, which provides patient access to all voluntary Medicaid providers.

“The Biden administration must put its words into action and uphold the law,” she said in a statement.

A request for comment from The Associated Press to the US Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the federal Medicaid program, was not immediately returned on Friday.

Missouri lawmakers also earmarked more money in the upcoming budget for home care for the elderly and people with disabilities, as well as $12 million more for opioid addiction treatment programs.

About $250 million in one-time federal funding will go to grants to expand high-speed internet, plus an additional $20 million to equip cell towers for broadband, especially in underserved areas.

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.

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