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Politics

Lawmakers Debate Funding for Healthcare Training Programs

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/lawmakersd_1179.mp3

In the next week, the Missouri House will debate the state's budget. The latest budget proposal includes no funding for a new program called Prepare to Care. The program would give additional money to colleges and universities to train healthcare workers. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Supporters of the Prepare to Care initiative say there's a need for more healthcare workers: In Southwest Missouri, they cite a need for more pharmacists in Springfield.

The idea behind Prepare to Care is to funnel new state funding to all public colleges and universities specifically for programs that train certain healthcare workers.

Republican Representative Bob Dixon of Springfield.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Republican Representative Allen Icet says now is not the time to start a new program. Even though revenue has been up in recent years, he says he's concerned about what's on the horizon.

That one time money Icet referenced is a projected surplus...Some lawmakers contend that creating a new, ongoing program in good economic times will cause problems in the coming years if state revenue declines. Icet says the program sounds like a good idea. But he says if the need is dire, universities ought to find funding for it themselves.

But supporters of Prepare to Care say the state ought to provide some funding to get the program started. Representative Bob Dixon says it's not a bad idea to have colleges and universities prioritize the program and come up with some funding. But he says the state should help too.

Democratic Representative Sara Lampe of Springfield says she and other supporters of Prepare to Care will fight to fund the program when the budget comes to the House floor for debate.

When the House finishes its work on the budget, it's then the senate's turn. After each chamber has approved its own version of the budget, House and Senate negotiators will meet to work out a compromise...once lawmakers approve this final version of the budget, it will then go to the governor. With all these steps remaining in the budget process, supporters of Prepare to Care say they have several opportunities to get funding for the program into the budget.