Earlier this month, the governor released his proposed budget recommendations for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2018, which starts on July 1st. I serve on the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee which has been meeting, just as the House Budget Committee, and hearing from state department directors to learn about their future funding desires. During those meetings, we also hear from regional leaders and constituents about how they think we should spend their tax dollars.
Just like we must live within our means at home or in our businesses, the Missouri Constitution requires the Legislature to pass a balanced budget. The reality is we are facing a difficult fiscal environment this year. Even with a proposed $27 billion spending plan, we have an estimated budget shortfall of approximately $300 million. Through it all, however, I am hopeful we will still be able to provide adequate funding for both K-12 and higher education. I know rural school districts are especially anxious to see student transportation funding restored. With the ever-growing costs of our social programs, we must keep looking for ways to contain expenses by increasing efficiency and accountability.
The House will pass its budget first, and then the Senate will make its changes. The budget bills will then go to a conference committee of the House and Senate to work out the differences between the two chambers’ versions. Once finalized, the General Assembly will send the final budget bills to the governor for his review.
Crafting the state budget is a collaborative effort, involving the governor, the Legislature and, of course, Missouri citizens. I am honored to be serving on the Appropriations Committee. After all, deciding how to allocate taxpayer dollars is our greatest responsibility as legislators. Throughout the comings weeks, I look forward to advocating for our region’s priorities, ensuring our budget remains reasonable and working to maintain accountability to Missouri taxpayers.