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4/4/11Posted Monday, April 4, 2011, at 9:56 AM
The biggest job we do in the Missouri House is the formulation of the budget. Work on it begins at the start of the session, and generally isn't completed until late March to early April.
Last week, we gave initial approval to the budget for fiscal year 2012. The budget, which came in at over $23 billion dollars, will have a huge impact on the whole state. With limited resources, it is difficult to make everyone happy, but the House did the most we could with the money we had. And, more importantly, the budget protects taxpayers.
At a time when most states are struggling to make ends meet, we have balanced our budget while protecting the money allotted for key services. And we accomplished this without job-killing tax increases. This will help our state economy continue to grow.
The main highlight in this budget deals with education. We were able to keep the funding for the foundation formula stable. Unlike the budget just passed, the Governor's proposed budget included huge disparities in education.
This was the best case scenario for our schools in the 163rd District since the budget was projected to be full of cuts. Stable funding ensures the continued investment in the future of Missouri's children.
The budget also includes $98.7 million for the school transportation program. This money is important for rural districts like the 163rd. When this funding is cut, our schools have to shift money out of their general revenue because the students still need to be bused to school.
The Governor is withholding these funds in our current fiscal year, and it is affecting all of our school districts.
The budget also includes $16 million for the Parents as Teachers Program, a $1 million increase for the Bright Flight program, a $7 million increase in the A+ program and $12 million for the Preparing to Care program, a grant program that encourages students to enter the health care field.
While we maintained educational funding at its current level, we didn't overlook the need to continue creating jobs in this down economy. This budget sets aside $40 million for job retraining, retention and development. We are committed to helping our struggling workforce emerge from this recession.
It is important for us to look forward in helping prepare our citizens for the economy of the future. However, the current economy dictated a reduction of spending in other areas. When looking for reductions, it is important to lead by example. The House led by cutting the funding for the state legislature more than any other state agency.
We also improved transparency and protected the integrity of other state department budgets. For example, we ensured that the flights of the Governor weren't unfairly billed to other state agencies. This improves transparency and protects each department's core budget.
We also capped salaries in the public sector. Currently, the Governor has six positions in his office alone making over $100,000 per year. Capping these excessive salaries was the right thing to do.
Finally, we set a precedent by making the budget process a continual process. All state departments have received notice that containing costs is a key priority, and it should remain a goal whether the economic conditions in the state are good or bad. Our Missouri families are faced with living within a budget, and Missouri government should have the same focus.
We've made progress in the budget by keeping the baseline of education stable while working to put people back to work. As the economy in the state improves, we are in a position to ensure the progress of our state as a whole. And we accomplished this without raising taxes that would weaken our businesses and families.
As always, it is an honor to serve you in the Missouri House. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-3629. You can also email me at Kent.Hampton@house.mo.gov. I look forward to hearing from you.