Missouri Gov. Nixon signs $26 billion spending plan

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday signed a $26 billion budget for the next fiscal year that would increase basic aid for public K-12 schools, but he expressed disappointment the measure includes roughly $90 million in less than what he had recommended for social services and other welfare program spending.

Under the budget approved by the Republican-led Legislature, K-12 public schools next year will get $3.2 billion in basic aid. That's up more than $84 million from this year but still far short of the $482 million increase needed to provide the full amount called for under a 2005 state law. Public universities and colleges are set to receive $12 million more in performance-based funding, a 1.3 percent increase.

"This budget provides record funding for the best economic development tool there is: public education," Nixon said. "That means smaller class sizes, more technology, better training for teachers and other tools that will help Missouri's students succeed."

Opposition to social services cuts, along with an expansion of managed care for Medicaid patients that Nixon approved, had threatened to derail the budget's passage in the Senate earlier this year.

Still, Nixon generally praised lawmakers "for once again passing a budget on time, and providing the fiscal certainty and stability that's an important part of maintaining our AAA credit rating."

Nixon said his administration would move forward with the budget's expansion of managed care services for Medicaid recipients in "a careful, transparent and responsible way." Nearly half of the people on Medicaid already are in managed care plans.

The Missouri Hospital Association criticized the managed care expansion, saying it could be particularly problematic in rural areas.

Nixon this year only vetoed one item, which he said fixed a clerical error.

But Nixon said his administration won't implement a budget bill provision directing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to submit a new plan for testing schoolchildren to the House and Senate budget panels. The directive is an attempt to end tests linked to the national Common Core education standards. Nixon said it was unconstitutional for lawmakers to include the requirement in the budget bills, because it would more appropriately fit into a policy bill.

Nixon's general approval of the budget stands in stark contrast to last year, when he restricted $846 million of spending and vetoed an additional $276 million of items from the budget that took effect on July 1, 2014. Legislators subsequently overrode 47 of those line-item vetoes. Nixon has released much of the frozen spending, but is still blocking $269 million, including more money for K-12 transportation aid, a building project at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, dental coverage for adults on Medicaid and child care subsidies for low-income working parents.

Nixon said it's too early to know if he will need to withhold money from next year's budget to keep it in balance.

State revenues grew 7.7 percent so far this fiscal year, which runs from through June 30. That's above the Nixon administration's projection of 4.6 percent but still short of the roughly 10 percent that would be needed to fully fund the budget.


Budget bills are HB 1-13.



House: http://www.house.mo.gov


Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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