Perspective: Budget bills passed; one week remaining

Before adjourning on Thursday afternoon, the Senate put the finishing touches on the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. This year’s budget was difficult as a result of a slumping economy and corresponding diminished revenues, but these decreased revenues had the positive effect of forcing the state to take a look at spending across the board and make budgeting decisions based upon truly important priorities.

This budget is not perfect, no budget ever is, but this budget does make necessary spending cuts and allocations to support those policies and programs that are most important.

I am proud to have voted for a Fiscal Year 2012 budget that: provides $10 million more dollars in state aid for public school busing assistance than the governor recommended; secures $12 million more for higher education and secured commitments from colleges to increase scholarships and lower course fees; continues funding for the MoRx program that helps pay for prescription drugs for seniors and the disabled covered by Medicare; and cuts the budgets of statewide elected officials by 2.5 percent.

On Wednesday, the House and Senate took the dramatic step of overriding the governor’s veto of the congressional redistricting bill. I voted to override the veto, not because I believe that the map passed is the best possible map, but because I know that this map ensures an acceptable solution. However, if the governor’s veto was not overridden, the courts would have re-drawn the map. In this instance, it was an easy decision for me to go with a known map that is good for central Missouri over an unknown map drawn by a group of non-elected individuals who have not been part of the redistricting process and lack appreciation for the unique make up and values of Central Missouri.

As a former commissioner and chair of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, and as vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, I am interested and actively involved in transportation issues. On Wednesday, the director of MoDOT recommended a difficult restructuring plan to the commission. This plan will have a significant impact on personnel and facilities, but it will also allow an additional $500 million to go directly to roads and transportation infrastructure over the next five years. MoDOT has briefed me on this plan, and I will continue to discuss it with them in the days leading up to the commission’s vote at its June 8 meeting.

If this proposed plan is approved by the commission, the changes will take place prior to Dec. 31, 2012. Of the 1,200 positions proposed to be eliminated, half will occur via natural attrition, such as retirement. The remaining 600 positions will be reduced across the state, not just from headquarters in Jefferson City or from sheds in Central Missouri.

After the Senate adjourned on Thursday, the House stayed in session and overwhelmingly approved an amendment containing early site permit language. By a vote of 121-21, the House revealed tremendous bipartisan support for keeping open the option of additional nuclear power in Missouri. This vote further validates the collective will of legislators and those whom they represent to pass this legislation. I look forward to Senate leadership, and the two large industrial organizations that have been holding this legislation hostage in the Senate, relenting to the will of the majority of senators and allowing early site permit legislation to be voted in the Senate so that it can be passed and sent to the governor for his signature.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, during the week of May 23, I will begin making stops throughout the district to discuss the accomplishments and challenges of this session, as well as to begin discussions as to what legislation I need to be preparing for next year. The first stop will be May 26, at the Burgher Haus in California, from 7-8 a.m. The following Saturday, I will be in Jefferson City, at Hy-Vee, from 8-9 a.m. I will announce subsequent stops in next week’s newsletter.

I am in this office to serve the constituents of the 6th Senatorial District. Please contact us at (573) 751-2076 if my office or I can be of any assistance to you or if you have questions.

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