- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday signed a $27.3 billion budget that boosts funding for education and health care while blocking money from Planned Parenthood, though the Democrat said he has concerns about that provision.

The section cutting Missouri’s 13 Planned Parenthood clinics out of Medicaid’s family planning and reproductive health programs will not take effect until the entire budget commences July 1, giving officials several weeks to study the measure, Nixon said.

“We will continue to analyze the legal ramifications of this (budget) language and work to ensure that we continue to provide access to essential health services,” Nixon said.

Asked whether his administration will attempt to circumvent the budget restriction, Nixon stuck to his prepared comments. “I’ve read my quote twice, and I think it’s… as pithy and as precise as my analytics allow me to get to today,” he said.

Missouri was slated to receive $8.3 in federal Medicaid funding that would cover services such as sexually transmitted disease treatment, pregnancy testing and vaccinations at county health departments, other clinics and Planned Parenthood. The federal government says states can’t steer that money away from organizations that provide abortions; the money is already prohibited from funding non-emergency abortions.

But Missouri’s Republican lawmakers replaced those funds with state money, which they said gave them the authority to stipulate that none of it could go to Planned Parenthood. Budget staffers have estimated that less than $400,000 from that program currently goes to Planned Parenthood.

Nixon said that $8 million could have otherwise gone toward education funding.

Before Nixon’s announcement, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, the Columbia Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and pushed for the measure, said the budget’s wording clearly blocks funding for Planned Parenthood and he questioned whether Nixon has the authority to sidestep that.

The budget adds $71 million to the nearly $3.3 billion of existing basic aid for K-12 schools, an increase of about 2 percent. That was about $439 million short of the legal funding formula when lawmakers passed the budget in April. But since then, the Legislature has re-written the formula over Nixon’s objections, and K-12 funding is now only about $54 million short of the benchmark.

Nixon expressed frustration that lawmakers didn’t provide more money for schools but he otherwise praised the budget for increasing spending on mental health services and higher education. He signed those two r spending bills earlier this week.

The Department of Mental Health will see a $155.6 million spending boost, putting it at nearly $2 billion. Additional money has also been set aside for projects such as the Thompson Center for Autism at the University of Missouri.

Public universities and colleges will see a boost to core funding of about $37 million, which amounts to a 4 percent increase. University leaders have agreed to freeze tuition in exchange for the funding increase.

Although lawmakers earlier in the session had threatened budget cuts for the University of Missouri in response to how campus officials handled student protests in the fall, the university’s administration will only see a cut of about $3.8 million while the system will see about $20 million through its share of the 4 percent increase as well as earmarked projects.

State workers will get a 2 percent pay increase. Missouri’s government employees earn the lowest average wages in the country at $803 a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent quarterly census. The last time they got a pay hike was a 1 percent bump in January 2015.

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