Budget Committee Continues Debate Monday

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JEFFERSON CITY - A conference committee scheduled to meet Monday morning expects to work out most of the differences in the house and senate versions of next year's state budget by the time the state legislature convenes Monday afternoon.

The committee met abortively last week before getting stuck on several provisions, the most serious of which is a debate over funding for veterans' homes and early child care. Currently, casino fees pay for both programs, but a house measure approved last week would send casino fees to veteran's homes only. The committee must also determine what to do about a 2 percent pay raise for state employees. The house's version of the budget authorizes the pay raise for any state employee making $70,000 a year or less, but the senate's version limits the pay range to those making $45,000 or less.

Committee chair Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, who also heads the House Budget Committee, said Thursday the pay raise will happen at some income level no matter what. He said he doesn't expect there to be any other major sticking points in the budget negotiations.

Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, who also sits on the committee, said she is proud of the work the committee has done to date and believes the final product will be a good compromise.

The $24 billion budget must be signed by May 11. Gov. Nixon signed the first component, dealing with miscellaneous expenses, into law on April 30.