As approved by the Missouri General Assembly and signed into law by the governor, the state operating budget for the 2020 fiscal year appropriates $13.53 billion to the departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Health and Senior Services. This is, by a wide margin, the largest category of spending, exceeding the combined total allocated to public education and transportation, the second and third largest areas of the budget, respectively.
I believe in the importance of our social service programs. They help Missourians who are least able to help themselves, such as the elderly, the disabled and struggling single parents. But I also believe in being a good steward of taxpayer money. It’s important to keep our social service programs working as efficiently and effectively as possible. We should do what we can to protect our most vulnerable populations without sacrificing other areas of the state budget and without substantially increasing the overall tax burden on Missouri residents. It’s all about finding a responsible balance that will best serve the interests of the people of our state.
Much of our social service spending goes toward Missouri’s Medicaid program. In recent years, the costs of this program have been steadily increasing and now exceed $10 billion per year. This is an ongoing concern that continues to influence the budgetary process. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have been closely tracking these developments while working with other state officials to see what we can do to ameliorate this issue. If left unchecked, our state Medicaid program will soon become unsustainable. But if we take appropriate preventive action now, we can protect this vital program for years to come.
As always, please feel free to call, email or write with your ideas or concerns. My Capitol office number is 573-751-1415, my email is email@example.com and my mailing address is Room 332, State Capitol Building, Jefferson City, MO 65101.
Dan Hegeman is the 12th District State Senator.