Missouri Senate passes a 'do no harm' budget
The Kansas City Star
The Missouri Senate passed a budget at 2:30 a.m. today, which is actually much quicker than a lot of people expected, including me.
Here’s some things to like about this version of the budget:
1)Unlike the House plan, it doesn’t yank health care from 2,800 low-income blind Missourians, many of whom have multiple health problems and would be unable to purchase affordable insurance on the private market.
2)Like the House plan, the Senate version provides for a pay raise for most employees. Workers making up to $45,000 annually will get a 2 percent pay raise. With state employees earning an average yearly salary of $36,985, that covers about 82 percent of the workforce. Missouri pays its state workers the lowest overall wage in the nation, and the last general pay increase was in 2009. Amazingly, 15 Senators voted against the 2 percent raise, including Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit, Luann Ridgeway of Smithville and Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, all Republicans.
3)It doesn’t cut child care subsidies, as advocates had feared would happen.
4)It omits a provision from Kurt Schaefer, the otherwise sensible budget chairman, which would have required the state to accept all qualified bidders for Medicaid managed care contracts. The administration has provided some pretty good data to show that limiting the number of providers would save the state a good amount of money.
And here are a couple of things not to like about the Senate version of the budget:
1)It foolishly forgoes a $50 million federal grant to update the computer system for the state’s Medicaid system. A new system would be more user-friendly for people trying to enroll. It would reduce the potential for fraud and make it easier to analyze data. And it wouldn’t cost the state any money. So what’s the problem? As usual, the problem is the knee-jerk opposition of some Republicans to anything they think might be remotely connected to “Obamacare.” Some Senators suspected the new computer system might be used to help set up a health exchange, as required by the Affordable Care Act. Can’t have that in Missouri.
2)Um, well, there is some concern that the just-passed budget version might not be balanced. Of particular concern is reliance on lottery proceeds.
Overall, though, the Senate passed a do-no-harm budget, unlike the House version, which would do great harm to blind Missourians. Now the two sides have to reconcile their differences.