To keep our promise of funding Education with more money than ever before, we added $74 million to K12, $12 million to Higher Education, $6 million to 2 year institutions, $5 million to Early Childhood, and a $2 million increase to the A plus program. There was considerable floor debate on Education issues with Representatives from both sides of the aisle expressing their views on how we could allocate additional money for programs all over the state. For the most part, this was a gargantuan bi-partisan effort to fund Education with more money than ever before in the state's history. We funded it well above the Constitutionally requirements of 25% of the general Revenues. Next to paying the State's bills, Education is our foremost responsibility as Legislators.
The Senate now will go over the House Budget and make their changes, we will go to conference on the differences and it will be presented to the Governor. If the Governor withholds critical funding for political purposes as in the past, we will have time to attempt an immediate over-ride. Stay tuned, this will get interesting!
We spent about two hours talking about different proposals for Medicaid expansion. I learned several things that I think are worth passing on. We have apparently been expanding Medicaid every year since it's introduction. Its original purpose was to provide a safety net for pregnant women, children, and elderly and had all kinds of assurances that it was only going to be a temporary program. The Federal Government pays 40% of the cost, which brings down our part to a paltry $8 Billion Dollars! That is nearly one third of our entire State Budget! There are currently 900,000 Missourian's receiving Medicaid. That is nearly one sixth of our population! In my humble opinion, we need to do some serious reforming of our current program before we add another 300,000 people to an already overloaded system. There are Senate bills coming up for debate that intend to do just that. The eventual target for Federal participation in expansion is the same as the current figures of 40%. Although we would start out at 10% or an additional $270 million, it would soon become another $1.7 Billion. Add that to the $350 million or so that we are expanding every year and it soon turns into real money! There were plenty of offers of ways to raise taxes to cover the increase. We heard plans to raise cigarette taxes by two dollars and adding a couple of dollars to the price of a six pack to and even one idea to place additional taxes to candy, chips, and desserts! Now there's one I'm against!
I've been hearing a lot of talk about lobbyists and the influence they have on elected officials. I thought it might interest you to see a list of who visited me last week. I heard from the Missouri School Board Association, the NEA, the Retired Teachers Association, the Association for the Blind, Missouri Nurses, Missouri Dental Assn., Missouri Cattlemen, The Conservation Department, Crowder, MSSU, and the Corn Farmers. Not every group in Missouri throws money at Law Makers, but every group has a lobbies. This is their only way of letting us know what they need to stay successful.
Patrick Miller from Fairview, the Missouri State Coordinator for TeenPact Leadership Schools, brought a delightful group of teens from all over the State to the Capitol for a weeklong study of State Government. Their motto is "Changing Lives to Change the World". They are a Faith Based group of young people that are certainly impressive. You can find out more at teenpact.com/missouri.
More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.