Finalizing the state’s $27.8 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018 was priority No. 1 in the Missouri General Assembly this week. The House and Senate met in conference for about six hours Wednesday to resolve the remaining differences between the two chambers’ budgets. Today, the Senate gave its approval to the conference committees’ final budget bills, and I’m pleased to say they are now on their way to the governor’s desk for his consideration. The Legislature had until Friday at 6 p.m. to deliver its finalized budget.

Several notable compromises resulted from the conference committees’ work. As far as higher education, the House agreed to the Senate’s position of only reducing UM System funding by 6.5 percent as opposed to a 9 percent cut. Although not a new development, its importance makes it worth repeating: this year, the Legislature voted to fully fund the Foundation Formula for the first time since it was adopted in 2005. For FY 2018, Missouri school districts will receive nearly $3.4 billion in basic aid for K-12 public education.

Conferees were also able to reach a compromise regarding cuts to nursing home and in-home care. Although some cuts were still necessary, they aren’t as steep as what was originally proposed. To qualify for in-home and nursing care, individuals are assigned a point total. Because of the budget situation, the governor proposed a funding cut for any person ranked under a 27. The final budget cuts funding for any individual ranked under a 24; however, if the Legislature is still able to pass some version of the Senior Services Protection Fund before the end of session, there will be enough room in the budget to only cut funding for those ranked under a 21.

The conference committee also maintained the Senate’s decision to keep the Missouri State Employee Retirement System (MOSERS) solvent by fully funding it. The House originally called for about $31 million less. In addition, the Summer Jobs Program is slated to receive $4 million in funding. The program helps low-income and at-risk youth in Missouri find valuable work experience.

From the very first day of session, we knew crafting this year’s budget was going to be a difficult process given the state’s strained budget situation. But despite having to make some tough choices, I believe we were still able to deliver a fair and affordable budget for the people of Missouri. I especially want to thank the hardworking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Conference Committee and Senate Appropriations staff for the many hours they dedicated to this year’s budget.

Fiscal Year 2018 begins July 1, 2017.

Volunteer Opportunity to Help Victims of Flooding in Neosho

Our neighbors in southern Missouri need your help. Historic flooding has resulted in extensive damage to over 500 homes, businesses and property in Neosho, and many families have lost everything. Heart to Heart International (HHI) arrived in Neosho on Sunday with bottled water and hygiene supplies. We are now working with local organizations to support the community’s recovery. Volunteers are needed this weekend to help families clean out flood-damaged homes so that rebuilding can begin. Let’s support our neighbors!

When: Saturday, May 6, and Sunday, May 7. Volunteer one or both days.
Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, or as long as you can stay.
Where: Lampo Center, 500 E Spring Street, Neosho, MO 64850. Meet up with HHI staff on site and get an HHI t-shirt and your work assignment.
What: Clean up flooded homes and yards.
Who: All ages and abilities are welcome. No special skills required. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian or have a signed permission slip/waiver from a parent. Scout troops are also encouraged to come out and help.
Wear: Boots and leather gloves. Be sure to bring a dust mask and eye goggles, as well as tools if you have the skill to use them safely.

Volunteers who wish to work both days can spend the night, at their own expense, at the Best Western or another nearby hotel.

To sign up, HHI needs your name, email and mobile number.
RSVP to Eddie Meyer at eddie.meyer@hearttoheart.org. You may also call (913) 764-5200 or (913) 538-7929.

If you are unable to volunteer but wish to make a financial contribution, HHI will ensure proceeds are used for flood cleanup in Missouri.