JEFFERSON CITY | The Missouri House and Senate will start formal negotiations tomorrow to work out differences between the chambers on the state’s $24 billion budget, but not before divisions among Republican senators flared up once again this morning.
Last week, a group of nine Republicans stalled the 13 bills that make up the state’s budget, arguing that it wasn’t truly balanced because it relied too heavily on one-time funding sources. In the end, the group won most of the concessions it demanded from Senate leadership, which ultimately resulted in a budget that isn’t balanced.
Today, several members of that group attempted to bind senators who will negotiate with the House to certain provisions in the Senate’s version of the budget, a move Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer said would be unprecedented.
The specific provisions that would be impacted include a pair of appropriations to Southeast Missouri State University that were removed by the Senate and a change to the judiciary budget championed by Republican Sen. Jim Lembke of Lemay.
Sen. Rob Schaaf, a St. Joseph Republican, said binding negotiators would help keep the budget from getting derailed down the line. If the budget returns to the Senate with these provisions included, several senators would once again attempt to block its final passage.
“Binding conferees simply sends a message that you don’t want to slow the budget down over this,” he said.
Lawmakers are constitutionally mandated to pass a budget by May 11.
Schaefer, a Columbia Republican, argued that the move would immediately sabotage negotiations with the House.
“It’s hard to negotiate when the message has been sent that we are not able to negotiate,” he said.
Negotiations that “start with ‘you do it my way or you take the highway’” won't work, said Democratic Sen. Tim Green of St. Louis.
“Using vinegar in the negotiation process instead of sugar is not the way to go,” he said.
After more than an hour of debate on the issue, senators agreed not to bind negotiators with assurances from Schaeffer that he would do everything he can to fight for the Senate’s position with the House.
Sens. Schaefer, Green, Dan Brown, Kiki Curls and Will Kraus were assigned to the conference committee. House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey will lead the House delegation, along with Reps. Rick Stream, Sara Lampe, Chris Kelly and Lincoln Hough. Additionally, Reps. Genise Montecillo and Tom Flanigan will take the place of conference members during negotiations on certain bills.
The conference committee will meet for the first time Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.