(The Center Square) – The Missouri House Thursday sent the state’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) $34.6 billion budget to the Senate after approving 13 appropriation measures and a supplemental budget bill after hours for the current fiscal year.
The House budget is $2.2 billion below Gov. Mike Parson’s January FY22 budget request primarily because it does not include the $1.9 billion for Medicaid expansion that Missouri voters ordered the Legislature to enact by July 1 when they approved Amendment 2 in August.
House Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chair Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, opposed Amendment 2 before it was adopted in a statewide referendum and continue to do so, maintaining the Legislature is not legally obligated to fund the expansion, which could add up to 275,000 uninsured adults to the state’s Medicaid rolls.
Smith filed House Bill 20, which segregates Medicaid expansion appropriations from other Medicaid spending bills to be separately approved.
The House Budget Committee on March 26 in a partisan 20-9 vote shot down HB 20, which sought to allocate $130 million in state general revenues to secure $1.9 billion in federal Medicaid funding, leaving expansion in limbo.
After passing HBs 1 through 13 on Thursday, the budget without Medicaid expansion now heads to the Senate where it faces an uncertain fate.
“What we are doing in this is we are prioritizing the most vulnerable among us” and not providing free health care to adults who won’t work, said Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, during Thursday’s House floor debate.
There were religious references aplenty during the seven-hour discussion with Rep. Michael Burton, D-Lakeshire, asking Republicans what Jesus would do about people in need without health care and Rep. Trish Gunby, D-Manchester, stating the United Methodist Church has released a policy calling basic health care a fundamental right.
Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, a minister and former Ozark Bible Institute dean, quoted Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians when he said, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat."
House Minority Leader Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said she’s confident the Senate will restore the $1.9 billion in Medicaid funding and comments by Parson and Senate leaders indicate that is likely.
Asked about the House’s rejection of HB 20, Parson on KDRO Radio called it “a little different maneuver I want to say, I guess,” adding, “We’ll have to see how that goes in the Senate there. We did put the money in the budget for that.”
The governor said the people voted for Amendment 2 and even though he opposed it, “I thought it was my obligation as governor to make sure we try to get it implemented. We’ll see what the Senate does and we’ll see how it comes out at the end of the day.”
Under the recently adopted ‘American Rescue Plan,’ Missouri would receive around $1.15 billion in additional Medicaid funding
Parson’s budget anticipates $1.1 billion in surplus state funds. In addition, Missouri is receiving about $2.8 billion in federal emergency stimulus money and will get an additional $1.5 billion over the next two years if it expands Medicaid
Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Springfield News-Leader Wednesday lawmakers are legally obligated to fund expansion.
“It’s in the state constitution,” he said. “The voters approved it and we’re going to find a way to fund it.”
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, would not commit the Senate to any course of action.
“We didn’t get into the issue with our caucus yet,” he said. “We have a lot of conversations to have.”