JEFFERSON CITY - A House committee cut $68 million of state funds from health care programs Thursday to boost funding for higher education, but some Democrats warned the cuts are not as effective as originally proposed.
The committee chairman Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, said he would recommend to the full House Budget Committee that the cuts to social services be used to boost public university funding.
Missouri's public universities were facing a 15.1 percent reduction under Gov. Jay Nixon's 2013 budget proposal until Nixon used $40 million from a national mortgage settlement to soften his initial cuts. If the cuts from the social services budget are used solely to fund higher education, then the universities face only a 1.3 percent decrease from last fiscal year.
Long-time House Budget Committee member Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said he hadn't had a chance to look at the proposed social services cuts and their effects, but that he was "happy with the result" of more funds to higher education.
Some of the committee's cuts, however, may come back to cost the state money during the next fiscal year.
About $6 million comes from a federal government mandated prescription drug program. Because the federal government fiscal year begins after the states, Missouri does not know how much it owes for the drug program until after they have passed their budget. For fiscal year 2013 it is estimated to cost the state about $200 million, but the House has reduced that estimate to $194 million.
Last year, the House also reduced the estimated cost of the prescription drug program, but are having to appropriate an extra $5.6 million because the estimate came back higher than the General Assembly allowed for in 2012.
Democrats on the committee were irate at the cuts because they said they were not informed about the plan prior to the mark-up Thursday morning.
Rep. Bert Atkins, D-St. Louis County, called it "ridiculous."
"These people can't afford any more cuts," said Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-St. Louis County.
Even with the cuts, the budgets for the Departments of Health, Mental Health and Social Services comprise 30 percent or $2.4 billion of the state's general revenue fund. These departments and programs also account for 45 percent of Missouri's entire operating budget, which includes federal funds.
The proposed social services cuts from health programs still need the approval of the full House Budget Committee.