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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Capitol wrap-up: Week of April 27

Senate approves education budget

Missouri Senate this week gave the nod to a $700 million-plus increase in Missouri’s 2015 education budget.

The proposed budget would give K-12 schools a minimum of $115 million in additional state aid on top of the existing $3.1 billion, and would add more than $600 million to higher education’s $1.2 billion.

Should state revenues come closer to those calculated by Gov. Jay Nixon, the Senate and the House have both agreed to increase funding to schools proportional to the additional revenue. The House had proposed a slightly greater $122 million to public schools.

The Senate decision comes after months of debate between the Republican-led General Assembly and Nixon, a Democrat. Nixon proposed a $27.7 billion state budget in January, but state legislators have since cut that figure by more than $900 million.

The difference stems from Medicaid expansion, which Missouri lawmakers have rejected. If it were to be approved, the $900 million would come from the federal government.

Nixon proposes Medicaid expansion precursor

This week, Nixon outlined his proposal for a new health care initiative, despite Republican opposition.

The Missouri Health Works program would pay part of low-income small business employees’ private insurance costs. Though unlike the state’s Medicaid program, Nixon’s proposal wouldn’t directly subsidize health care costs.

Missouri Health Works’ origins lie in the federal Affordable Care Act, which starting this year allowed states to receive federal aid — in Missouri’s case, $900 million — to expand their Medicaid programs to people at or below 138 percent of the poverty line.

"I don't expect the General Assembly to support Obamacare, but I do expect them to listen to small businesses and evaluate the situation on the merits, rather than the politics, to come up with a solution that's right for the Show-Me State," Nixon said at a news conference Monday.

Legislators have expressed concern over whether or not the federal government would continue to fully fund expanded Medicaid programs.

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