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The director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) may see his office budget cut in half and the state health lab taken from his control for not releasing Bourbon virus testing information.

According to documents from the House Appropriations Office released Wednesday morning, two amendments have been proposed by budget committee Vice Chairman State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann,

The first calls for a $925,046 decrease in the DHSS director’s budget, and the removal of 10 full time equivalent positions, which would eliminate the legal staff for the director’s office.

In addition to the director’s office cuts, Alferman has proposed shifting the state health lab and it’s $12,328,505 budget from DHSS control to the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

“The DHSS has not adequately addressed this as a public safety issue,” Alferman said. “So, we are moving the lab to a department that will address it properly.”

Alferman stressed the proposed budget cuts are solely to the director’s office and will in no way affect any services taxpayers receive from DHSS.  

These massive cuts have been threatened due to the department’s continued refusal to release Bourbon virus testing data from Meramec State Park last summer.

Alferman proposed the amendments after numerous meetings with DHSS legal counsel, liaisons from Gov. Eric Greitens’ office and Speaker of the House Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff.

The House Budget Committee will reconvene at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The DHSS will have until that time to release the Bourbon virus information Alferman and State Rep. Nathan Tate, R-St. Clair have requested or the budget cuts will become a reality.

The Missourian will be monitoring this issue throughout the day and will have more information as it becomes available.