Specifically, the Governor praised the FY2017 budget for:
· Freezing tuition for Missouri undergraduates at public colleges and universities. The FY2017 budget answers the Governor’s call to hold tuition flat for Missouri undergraduates for the upcoming school year, helping to keep Missouri number one in the nation for holding down tuition increases at public universities. The budget also adopts Gov. Nixon’s recommendation for a $7 million funding increase for Missouri’s scholarship programs.
· Strengthening Missouri’s mental health system. The FY2017 budget increases state and federal funding for the Missouri Department of Mental Health by more than $200 million. This will keep the waiting list for in-home services for low-income Missourians for developmental disabilities at zero, provide a rate increase for mental health care providers, and expand access to treatment for Missourians with severe mental illness.
· Investing in economic development. The Governor also praised the budget for increasing funding for worker training, state parks, tourism, and ports – all important strategies for continuing to grow Missouri’s economy. For working families, the budget adopts Gov. Nixon’s proposal to make child care more affordable for 20,000 low-income families, reducing their out-of-pocket costs.
· Strengthening cybersecurity. The FY2017 budget includes a $2 million increase to enhance the state’s ability to defend against cyber attacks.
Gov. Nixon faulted the legislature for failing to prioritize public education and refusing to adopt his recommendation for an $85 million increase for K-12 classrooms, while at the same time lowering the target for the state’s K-12 funding formula. While failing to prioritize education funding, the General Assembly this week passed a tax break that would reduce state revenue by more than $51 million annually beginning in Fiscal Year 2017 and is not accounted for in the budget.
“Fiscal discipline is a value we share here in Missouri. Just like Missouri families have to do at home, we balance our budgets – and take care not to spend more than we take in,” said the Governor. “That’s why, moving forward, I will continue to monitor the revenue situation carefully, account for the passage of legislation that would have a significant fiscal impact, and take whatever actions are necessary to keep the budget in balance.”
The Governor also expressed concern regarding language in the budget for the Missouri Department of Social Services (House Bill 2011), which could reduce access to women’s health services, while spending an additional $8 million in state general revenue.
“We will continue to analyze the legal ramifications of this language, and work to ensure that we continue to provide access to essential health services,” Gov. Nixon said.
The Governor also used his line-item veto authority to veto Section 8.185 of House Bill 2008, an appropriation from the World War II Memorial Trust Fund, which would have violated the allowable use of the fund pursuant to Section 301.3031, RSMo; and Section 11.420 of House Bill 2011, which would have placed conditions on health information exchange services that would unfairly exempt select providers from the requirement to pay for such services as called for under existing contracts.
Last month, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services, along with Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings, gave Missouri the strongest credit rating possible, citing the Governor’s strong fiscal management to keep the budget in balance. Missouri is one of just a few states with a perfect AAA credit rating from all three independent rating agencies.