The state budget is sent to the House floor
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The state budget is sent to the House floor

Date: March 7, 2012
By: Josie Butler
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -The House Budget committee passed the state's $24 billion budget Wednesday with level higher education funding and cuts to programs helping the blind. 

The committee reversed a proposed 15 percent cut to Missouri's colleges by Gov. Jay Nixon and increased elementary education funding by $5 million as suggested by Nixon.

To reverse those cuts, the House had to take money from a program that pays the medical expenses of people who are blind if they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

Two of the proposed amendments to the budget Wednesday attempted to increase funding to those programs benefiting the blind.

Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, previously announced plans to end a $28 million program to the blind in order to reverse the 15 percent cut to higher education.  

Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he believes the House went too far with the cut to the blind program. He proposed an amendment to undo the $28 million cut made earlier in the session. His amendment would have created a transfer of funds from economic development programs to the Blind Medical Subsidy Fund.

Before the budget was passed, Silvey added appropriation authority for the a program helping the blind, contingent on another bill. Silvey's amendment increased funding by $6 million if a bill he introduced is passed.

Silvey's bill would eliminate the exemption from state and local sales tax on the sale of newspaper supplies and equipment used to produce newspapers and use the additional revenue to fund the program.

House Democrats also took steps to send a message to the University of Missouri Kansas City.

Rep. John Rizzo, D-Kansas City, proposed an amendment that would decrease UMKC funding by $300,000. Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, said this cut was a message to the Dean of the University of Missouri Kansas City Medical School.

Talboy said the poor treatment of the staff in the medical school prompted the proposed cuts to the University system. Rizzo added another amendment that would use the $300,000 and create grants to purchase gunshot detection technology.

This technology would be able to pinpoint the exact location of fired shots. Rizzo said that other states with the detection technology have seen a decrease in shots fired. 

Talboy said the hope is that this technology will keep trauma patients out of the hospitals in UMKC. 

Other amendments passed in the House committee include:

Silvey also added funds to the A+ scholarship program. The A+ program is a college scholarship for students who attend a designated high school and want to go to community college.  

The budget passed in the House committee almost unanimously. Only two bills received dissenting votes, reflecting party lines.

The budget now has to clear the House Rules Committee before going to the full House for consideration. The House will debate the budget after lawmakers return from spring break March 19.

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