Greetings once again from the fourth floor of your Missouri Capitol. As I gaze out of my office window, I can see the Missouri River is once again on the rise and a constant reminder of the issues we face with having it as our neighbor.
The levy is still not repaired from the last flood, and this will cause further damage until it is repaired. There is a group working with the Army Corps of Engineers on getting this work done. It is a slow process, but hopefully, some more permanent solutions can be found to mitigate future flooding. Stay tuned!
A little over week ago, we observed Memorial Day, a day when we pause to remember lost loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. The typical ceremony held at the National Cemetery had to be moved this year due to COVID-19 and was held here on the Capitol grounds at the Veterans Plaza. More than 200 people attended the scaled-down ceremony, and it was very meaningful as we paused to remember those service men and women with prayer and song. Similar abbreviated ceremonies were held across the state and nation even with the limitations in place due to COVID-19.
The session ended without a lot of fanfare, and the good news for all Missourians is we did get some meaningful legislation passed albeit much were omnibus bills. Sadly, only 51 bills were passed, which is the lowest in recent history, showing the need for the time we meet in the Capitol. Missing those six weeks had a direct effect on the legislation we were able to cross the finish line. The legislation I introduced that was truly agreed to and finally passed was the POW/MIA bill intended to put pressure on Congress to declassify documents on missing in action service men and women dating back to World War II and going through the Cold War. As I reported in previous columns, we have far too many families who have not had the closure they deserve in bringing their loved one home for a proper burial. This legislation passed the Senate unanimously and only had one dissenting vote on the House side. I plan on keeping an eye on how this progresses in Congress and the Senate and will communicate with our congressional liaison to ensure this stays top of mind.
The other bill I introduced was to establish the Central Missouri Honor Flight license plate. This too met with unanimous approval in the Senate and only four dissenting votes in the House. The Central Missouri Honor Flight began in 2009, and over these past 11 years, more than 4,000 veterans have made the trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the monuments and then be welcomed home in a very moving ceremony in Columbia. The 62nd Honor flight is scheduled for the end of June, and each flight carries about 110 veterans along with approximately 30 guardians. I have had the honor of attending many of these welcome home ceremonies, and there isn't a dry eye in the place to see the look of appreciation on these men and women's faces. I have submitted my application to attend one in the future, and when I'm chosen, I will give you a full report in this column of what it's like first hand.
This past week, Cody Smith, our budget chair representative, gave us an overview of where we are on the FY2021 budget, and I want to share with you some of his data and thoughts. As of May 26, general revenue is down 7.1 percent and $610 million over the same day last year. Of course, this is not a surprise. We anticipated revenues to trend downward until mid-July when 2019 tax returns and fourth quarter taxes are due on the same day (July 15). While we look forward to seeing state revenues improve in July, it is possible that those revenues will remain at a negative value (year-over-year) until tax returns are due in April of 2021, when remittances come into the treasury in April 2021. The daily revenue numbers will coincide when the true financial impact of COVID-19 hit in April of 2020, making the revenue numbers look rosy next spring.
In total, the General Assembly appropriated $35,291,459,657 for fiscal year 2021:
- $10,011,743,473 in general revenue
- $14,757,315,949 in federal funds
- $10,522,400,235 in other funds
There will be little to no new spending in the state budget, and if you look closely to the FY2020 budget, you'll see a lot of similarities. There are some highlights worth noting outside of the CARES Act spending:
- An $8 million increase to reimburse counties for housing prisoners in jails. This is one of the few ways the state can help counties with their revenue crises.
- $18.5 million was appropriated for tourism funding for the Division of Tourism's cooperative program and advertising. It is $8.5 million more than the House approved in April.
Changes to House Bills 2010 and 2011 are designed to save the state money in future years. Particularly referencing changes that re-introduce the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and the structured family caregiver waiver.
- $10 million was again added to the budget for the Translational Precision Medicine Center at Mizzou. This appropriation is designed to be an investment in future lifesaving cures and is but a small part of the larger donation of combined federal and private funding.
The following is a breakdown of the CARES ACT monies of which most carried over from April when the House perfected budget bills:
- $2 million was appropriated to fund the Fast Track Scholarship for degree-seeking adults who qualify ($1 million in federal funds and $1 million in lottery funds).
- $12 million to increase access to broadband internet in underserved areas.
- $1.25 billion in federal funds and 200 FTEs for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to provide support and assistance to state and local government agencies responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
- $31.5 million in new federal funds to help the Department of Labor & Industrial Relations (DOLIR) through its Division of Employment Security to provide timely assistance to those impacted by COVID-19.
- $22.1 million in federal funds to DOLIR for "Shared Work" benefits and managing the department's COVID-19 related expenses.
- $11.4 million in federal funds to the Department of Public Safety to distribute Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) grants to fight COVID-19.
- $23.6 million in federal funds to the Department of Mental Health to provide statewide crisis counseling, suicide prevention and telehealth services.
- $13.3 million to the Department of Health and Senior Services to address coronavirus preparedness and response.
- $185 million for child nutrition and food assistance programs.
- $33 million for meals and services for senior citizens through the Area Agencies on Aging.
- $4 million for the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program.
- $1.5 million to the Nursing Facility Quality Care Fund to improve nursing homes.
- $18 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides utility assistance for low-income Missourians.
- $2 million in new federal funds to increase Missouri's low-income weatherization program.
I hope these numbers are helpful to you in understanding the process and monies allocated to the various programs throughout the state. If you additional questions, please give my office a call and we will try to answer them, and if we cannot, we will find the answers for you.
Once again, thank you for all your correspondence with me throughout this session, and I look forward to serving you in the future as your state representative.
State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 60th District, and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.