Budget Battle Far From Over

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JEFFERSON CITY - After a historic session, the Missouri Senate approved their budget early Wednesday morning after overcoming a filibuster by 9 republicans. While the Senate's budget has initially cleared the floor, not all budget issues are settled. The Senate's budget proposal differs from the House's in a number of ways.

The House's proposal eliminated special health care coverage for blind Missourians who make too much to qualify for medicaid. On the other hand, the Senate's proposal leaves the program as it is.

Another key difference involves a proposed pay raise for state workers. While both chambers included a 2 percent pay raise, the Senate's would be for those state workers making less than $45,000 while the House's would affect those making less than $70,000.

The Senate passed the last of 14 budget bills around 2:30 in the morning Wednesday.

A vote on the Senate budget had been blocked since Monday afternoon by a group of Senators who are being called the 'Gang of 9' by their fellow legislators. The Gang of 9 had presented a list of demands to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Silvey stayed throughout the night and watched the Senate budget debate. "The so called Gang of 9 was chest thumping about you know we're spending too much money and you know we need to balance our budget and the only thing they accomplished was spending more money and unbalancing the budget," Silvey said.

Sen. Jim Lembke, R-St. Louis County, was one of the members of the 'Gang of Nine.'  "If we're going to send an out of balance budget to the super appropriator, to the governor, then let's let him make the decisions if we're not going to make the decisions and pass a balanced budget," Lembke said.

Attention now shifts to a 10 member conference committee which will try to find a middle ground between the House and Senate's proposed budgets.

The Senate must send a budget to Governor Nixon by May 11.