State News Briefs

Missouri Southern subject of budget appropriations

House Bill 03, an appropriations act for higher education, includes more than $21 million for Missouri Southern, the same level as the current fiscal year. The House Bill does not include the $250,000 appropriations reduction proposed for Missouri Southern by Gov. Matt Blunt.

Missouri’s Lottery Proceeds Fund accounts for almost $2 million of the total Southern budget. The House began floor debate for the state budget on April 12. Because of House rule changes implemented during the current legislative session, debate is limited to 12 hours, six hours each for the republican and democrat sides of the aisle.

Once the House passes the budget, the Senate will take up the appropriations bills. Committees in the Senate have already started the process in anticipation of receiving the budget from the House.

Tax refunds on schedule to return on time this year

The Missouri Department of Revenue answered Gov. Matt Blunt’s call to expedite state tax refunds to Missouri taxpayers.

The department is now sending refund checks to taxpayers in an average of 3.1 days, marking a record turnaround time. However, the department expects to receive 600,000 more returns in the next week, approximately 30 percent of the total. The department processes returns in the order they are received. As the volume of returns increases, the average processing time will also increase.

“Missourians work hard for their money, and in a perfect world, the government would never take more from their paychecks than was necessary,” Blunt said. “Since these refunds represent money that was collected by the state beyond what was needed to meet tax obligations, I have made refunding this money a budgetary priority of state government.”

In recent years, Missouri taxpayers who overpaid the state have had to wait months to receive a refund check. Missouri Department of Revenue Director Trish Vincent said that will not happen this year.

“Taxpayers who submit error-free, properly completed tax returns can expect that we will process their return quickly,” Vincent said.

On Jan. 31, 2003, the department was instructed to stop issuing refund checks to ensure the state would stay financially stable. At the end of the April 15 week that year, the department was holding 350,000 refund checks totaling $125 million. In 2004, the department began holding refunds the week of April 15, for a total of $46 million for 123,000 taxpayers.

Currently, the state has a tight cash flow, but Blunt decided the actions of the past were not a legitimate option. He is deferring payments to state institutions and agencies in order to get taxpayers their refunds.

Blunt signs supplemental appropriation bill April 9

Gov. Matt Blunt signed the supplemental appropriations bill (House Bill 14) April 9 for the current state budget year, making $217.5 million available for state programs through June 30.

“I want to thank the budget chairman, Sen. Chuck Gross and Rep. Brad lager, for their leadership in passing the supplementary appropriations bill so quickly,” Blunt said. “Thanks to their prompt action, important services to Missouri citizens will continue without interruption.”

The supplemental bill contain $190 million to continue support provided by the Department of Social Services such as Medicaid, food stamps, adoption subsidy, juvenile residential treatment and payments to the blind. In addition, funding is included to operate the Missouri call center that answers questions about benefits for Social Services clients. The center was formerly located overseas.

More than $4.5 million is included for the First Steps program, assuring continued services for children with developmental disabilities. Schools will also receive another $41 million to provide services to students who are severely disabled.

The new “All-Felon” DNA testing program, created during last year’s legislative session, also received start-up funds. This program increases the database of DNA profiles to include those of all felons, providing a crime-solving tool.

Included in the supplementary appropriation is $72,000 for the Missouri Southern crime lab.