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The one constitutionally mandated job of the Missouri General Assembly is to pass a balanced state budget by the deadline of 6 p.m. the Friday before the last day of session. This session, our deadline is May 10. This week, the House sent its versions of the budget bills to the Senate for consideration. Those bills have now been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for hearings.
A final, balanced budget contains many stops along the way. The process begins with the governor’s recommendations, given during his State of the State address in January. At that point, the House Budget Committee takes up its work to draft the budget, while the Senate Appropriations Committee hears testimony from every state department as to the financial need of those departments.
We are now at the second step of the process, when the House budget comes to the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold hearings on those bills beginning this week, when my colleagues and I will consider the House’s budget proposals and offer any amendments we feel necessary. Once the Appropriations Committee makes the changes and votes the bills out of committee, they will head to the Senate floor for full debate and consideration. If changes are made at this point, the bills will then be sent to a joint conference committee to work out differences between the versions. The conference committees are comprised of five Senate members and three House members.
Part of the difficulty of creating a balanced budget is deciding on each state department’s funding. While the Legislature certainly wants to provide the requested funding that each department would like to receive, we are often held back by a lack of revenue to provide requested amounts. Thus, it falls to your elected officials to make those tough decisions, using the best interests of Missourians as a guideline.
These past few years have been difficult in terms of money and funding. Revenues are growing at 3.9 percent, well above projections, which means we are starting to move out of the deepest troubles we have suffered, but we aren’t completely out of the woods yet. My colleagues and I will work many hours over the next month to craft a balanced budget by the May 10 deadline.
As always, please feel free to contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 866-277-0882 (toll-free) or 573-751-2272, or by fax at 573-526-7381.
Senator David Pearce serves Caldwell, Carroll, Howard, Johnson, Lafayette, Livingston, Ray and Saline counties.