JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is cutting more than $250 million in spending for the fiscal year that begins Saturday, including money for K-12 school buses, higher education and social services.
The Republican announced the cuts Friday while signing the state’s roughly $27 billion budget, saying the reductions are necessary because of lagging state revenues and rising health care costs.
“We were sent here to make tough decisions. That’s what we’re doing,” Greitens said in a written statement. The cuts were announced by the governor’s office near the close of the business day in a wide-ranging news release.
Greitens also said he vetoed a bill that would have swept funds from various specialized state accounts to avoid cuts to in-home and nursing care services for the disabled. And he said he would allow a bill repealing St. Louis’ new $10-an-hour minimum wage to become law on Aug. 28 without his signature.
The budget cuts come amid sluggish revenue growth that already led Greitens and his Democratic predecessor, Jay Nixon, to cut a combined $350 million in spending during the 2017 fiscal year that ended Friday. Lower-than-expected revenue growth in one fiscal year can impact the next because the state starts out with less money.
Lawmakers in May sent Greitens a budget proposal that would increase basic aid for public elementary and secondary schools by roughly $48 million to a total of nearly $3.4 billion and hit funding goals outlined in state law for the first time since fiscal year 2009, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Greitens left that core funding increase in place. But his cuts include $15 million less for K-12 transportation than lawmakers proposed. The governor also deepened the cuts to public colleges and universities, bringing the total reduction to 9 percent instead of the 6.6 percent cut included in the plan passed by lawmakers.
He cut the state’s tourism promotion efforts by $10 million, eliminating about half of its budget.
Many of the cuts announced Friday affect social services. Those include $60 million that had been budgeted to be set aside for mid-year cost increases in the Medicaid program and $30 million that Greitens said would be offset by “efficiencies” in the Department of Social Services.
Additional cuts will diminish rate increases that had been budgeted for Medicaid and mental health care providers. Foster care and residential services will see a $2.4 million cut out of their $80 million appropriation. Greitens’ spokesman Parker Briden said the Social Services Department said it doesn’t need that money because of efficiencies made in the foster care system.
The budget, as passed by lawmakers in May, cut in-home and nursing home services for about 8,300 people with disabilities. But lawmakers also had provided a way to avoid that, by passing a separate bill authorizing the state administration commissioner to take $35.4 million from various dedicated funds in order to maintain the current level of personal care services.
Greitens vetoed that bill, meaning the cuts will go forward.
“This was a clearly unconstitutional, last-minute budget gimmick,” Greitens said. “I won’t sign an unconstitutional, one-time, fake fix to a real problem.”
Democratic state Rep. Deb Lavender, who had proposed the fund transfers, said she was “saddened” by Greitens’ decision.
“More than 8,000 low income seniors, veterans and people living with disabilities with minor health care issues, will suffer the consequences of this veto,” Lavender said in a written statement.
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