The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 25, 2012

Mo. Senate budget funds pay hikes, blind benefits

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Senate signed off on a $24 billion budget plan early Wednesday that would provide a raise to the lowest-paid state workers in the nation and spare blind residents from a potential cut to their government-funded health care plan.

Senate passage of the budget came only after a coalition of nine Republican senators agreed to drop a two-day stalling effort when they gained a variety of concessions that did relatively little to change the bottom line of the proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1. In fact, after talking about the need for more cuts, some of the dissident Republican senators failed in an effort to strip the employee pay raise and then provided the winning margin on a vote to add money to the blind health care program.

It was unclear if the budget passed by the Senate was balanced.

“I think it’s close,” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

The Republican-led Legislature faces a May 11 constitutional deadline to send a final budget to Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. A conference committee of House and Senate negotiators could start meeting as soon as next week to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and a version passed last month by the House.

Both chambers’ versions would hold funding flat for public colleges and universities, opting against a cut recommended by Nixon, and would provide a slight increase in basic state aid for public K-12 school districts. Because those education items are the same in both versions, that funding essentially is locked in for the final version of Missouri’s budget.

Nixon originally had proposed a 2 percent raise for all state employees, regardless of their income, that would not have begun until Jan. 1, 2013, which is halfway through the next fiscal year. As passed by the House, the proposed budget would have provided a 2 percent pay raise — to begin July 1 — for workers earning up to $70,000 annually. That was scaled back by the Senate to apply to employees earning up to $45,000 annually, a threshold that would cover about 82 percent of Missouri’s workforce.

According to 2010 figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri ranked last among all states with an average yearly salary of $36,985 for its state employees, excluding those who work at public colleges and universities. Missouri employees have not received a general pay increase since 2009.

“We’ve got state employees who are basically the working poor,” said Schaefer, a proponent of the proposed pay hike.

Senators voted 17-15 to defeat an amendment by Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey that would have eliminated the pay raise. Dempsey offered the amendment after negotiations with the nine dissident Republicans, who had targeted the pay raise as part of a list of about a dozen changes they sought. Dempsey expressed concern that state revenues — particularly from the Missouri Lottery — might not meet expectations and that the pay raise would come at the expense of other state services.

“I’m just trying to be realistic. You can’t spend money you don’t have,” said Dempsey, R-St. Charles.

Despite voicing concerns the budget was out of balance, seven of the nine senators who had stalled the budget later joined a narrow majority of colleagues in an 18-16 vote to restore funding for the blind health care benefits. The roughly $28 million program provides health coverage to 2,858 blind people who earn too much to qualify for the state’s traditional Medicaid program for the poor.

The House had voted to scrap the blind health care program and replace it with a new, significantly slimmed down version. The Senate Appropriations Committee had taken a different approach earlier this month, opting to fund the current program with $18 million in general revenues, $1.4 million from another source and cover the remaining gap by charging participants premiums, co-payments and deductibles.

The amendment approved Wednesday added $8.6 million to the program, essentially restoring it to its current level.

“The blind should have their shot to be fully funded,” just like the University of Missouri or state employees desiring raises, said Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, a leader among the group of Republicans that had pushed for additional budget changes.

Nixon, who has decried possible budget cuts to the blind health care program as “dead wrong,” urged lawmakers Wednesday to keep full funding.

“For decades, Missouri has provided this efficient and compassionate program that offers essential health services for blind Missourians with very limited financial means,” Nixon said.

The budget passed by the Senate also drops a proposed cut — which had been endorsed by the Senate Appropriations Committee — to eliminate subsidized child care for an estimated 3,860 children and reduce subsidies for an additional 2,330 children.

Also squeezed out of the budget by both the House and Senate was a proposed $50 million expenditure of federal grants to update the computer system used by Missouri’s Medicaid system. Few deny that the new system would make it easier for people to enroll, reduce the potential for fraud and allow for more effective data analysis. But the nine dissident Republicans fought to keep the money out of the budget because of a concern that it could serve as the framework for the eventual implementation of a health insurance exchange under the new federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama.


Text Only
Local News
  • Former Webb City teacher charged with sexual contact with student

    A former Webb City High School choir teacher was charged Tuesday in Jasper County Circuit Court with having sexual contact with a student. According to a probable-cause statement, Carrie Njoroge, 30, of Oronogo, had consensual sexual intercourse with an 18-year-old male student in her office at Webb City High School during the evening hours of April 15.

    April 23, 2014

  • Carthage Council reorganizes

    The Carthage City Council has one new member after Paul McCoy was sworn in Tuesday as 2nd Ward councilman. Oaths of office also were repeated by Mayor Mike Harris, and Councilmen Lee Carlson, Jason Shelfer, Kirby Newport and Brady Beckham, all re-elected in city balloting on April 8. Councilman Dan Rife was re-elected as mayor pro tem.

    April 23, 2014

  • New Powell bridge to open today

    Great River Associates engineer Spencer Jones, of Springfield, is planning a final inspection of the new Powell bridge on Cowan Road off Route E, to be followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. today. The initial cost for the bridge was put at $800,000.

    April 23, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Spring a great time to visit Carver monument

    It occurred to me when the woman passed me — for the second time — as I ambled along the walking trail at George Washington Carver National Monument that perhaps I should step up the pace of my amble. The only problem is, the walking trail at the monument isn’t a place that necessarily inspires a stepped-up amble. To me, the Carver monument is a place to linger.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Season opens Friday for Carthage Art Walk

    Art, music and other activities are scheduled Friday when a new season of the Carthage Art Walk opens on the courthouse square. Displays and programs set for 6 to 9 p.m. will showcase galleries, artists, restaurants and shops. Special events will feature a timed painting and a demonstration of an 1896 printing press.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri lawmakers file three resolutions calling for impeaching governor

    While Gov. Jay Nixon was in Nevada, Mo., on Wednesday, a Missouri House panel led by Republicans began hearing arguments on three measures calling for impeaching him. Nixon has downplayed the proceedings as a legislative “publicity stunt.” One resolution, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, is critical of Nixon for waiting several months to call special elections to fill three vacated House seats.

    April 23, 2014

  • r042314psumove2.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Moving day for biology and chemistry building at Pittsburg State

    They didn’t all go two-by-two, and the person in charge wasn’t named Noah, but nonetheless, critters of all shapes and sizes were on the move Wednesday. Students, volunteers and staff members helped Delia Lister, director of Nature Reach, relocate everything from a pair of prairie dogs to a vocal macaw named Charlie so that Heckert-Wells Hall — the biology and chemistry building where they are housed on the campus of Pittsburg State University — can undergo a $4.4 million transformation in the coming months.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos 1 Slideshow

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 3M plant expansion to create 22 jobs

    An $18.7 million expansion at the 3M Co. manufacturing plant in Nevada will create 22 new jobs, a company official said Wednesday. “We started 43 years ago as a small manufacturer,” said Todd Cantrell, plant manager, in a meeting with employees. “We are now the largest 3M plant in the state of Missouri and one of the largest of all 3M plants.”

    April 23, 2014

  • Nixon: Tax-cut bill holds fatal flaw; area lawmakers say stance totally false

    Another year has brought yet another tax-cut fight between Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and the Republican-led Missouri General Assembly, and on Tuesday, Nixon announced that he had found what he sees as a fatal flaw.

    April 22, 2014

Must Read


A Missouri Senate committee has adopted a state budget provision that would prevent public colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to students living in the country illegally. Do you agree with this?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter