The House Budget Committee spent about five hours this week debating a bill that will fund Medicaid for the remainder of the year, give pay raises to state employees and distribute federal pandemic aid for schools. It is hoped that the $5.3 billion spending bill will be passed by February 1, but the timeline to reach the House floor for debate is uncertain.
One part of the bill pays the cost of the Medicaid program, which is expected to run out of funds by mid-February. The Medicaid portion of the bill will cost $1.6 billion, but will not require any state general revenue funds. Some of the extra costs are due to expanding eligibility for Medicaid to anyone aged 18 to 65 years old who has an income less than 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline. The Parson administration began accepting applications on October 1 for newly-eligible Missouri citizens. To date, 53,151 people have been enrolled. There are another 69,000 applications pending.
The committee also debated a 5.5 percent pay hike for state employees and setting a floor of $15 for all state jobs. The pay raise would help stop the rapid turnover of state employees at all levels, as well as address the tight job market. The turnover rate for state jobs was 26 percent last year, with a 55 percent turnover rate for employees earning less than $30,000 a year. It is estimated that about 8,800 state employees make less than $15 an hour.
The bill also includes $1.9 billion for schools, most of which must be appropriated by March 24. Of that amount, 90 percent goes directly to local school districts. The bill also includes $370 million from federal coronavirus funds for a variety of programs.
The committee took no action on the bill.