Missouri legislature passes nearly $49 billion state operating budget
The Missouri legislature passed a state operating budget totaling almost $49 billion on Friday, which is roughly $1 billion more than what Gov. Mike Parson proposed earlier in the year.
That budget includes a $2.8 billion plan to widen Interstate 70 to a minimum of three lanes in each direction. An earlier version of the plan would have cost almost $860 million and would have widened the highway only in the St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City areas.
It also includes $29.4 million to provide a baseline teacher salary of $38,000. While that program existed in the last budget, the state only provided 70% of that funding and required a local match. This year, the legislature adopted an additional $7.6 million to eliminate the need for a local match.
Other items in the budget include fully funding school transportation for the second year in a row, $4.5 million in public library funding, which was initially removed by the House, and $50 million to go toward stadium improvements for the World Cup in Kansas City.
While the budget does include raises for care providers, including those who aid people with disabilities, many Democrats expressed disappointment the raises weren’t higher.
Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said that in the same budget, lawmakers agreed to give a 20% raise to highway patrol and Capitol police, but not to give higher raises to teachers or care providers.
“I think it's very frustrating that we don't show that same value in prioritizing our ability to compete for workers in those other essential areas that also are about our safety and welfare as a state,” Merideth said.
Merideth said he did support those raises, he just wished that 20% would have gone in other places in the budget too.
Overall, the operating budget received largely bipartisan support.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, spoke in favor of the budget bill funding K-12 education and mentioned the $38,000 base salary as well as funding for childcare.
“There's a lot of really good stuff for kids in this bill, including increased funding for childcare so that we know there will be more options, safe options, available for parents,” Arthur said.
However, the entire budget for the upcoming fiscal year is still not complete, with four bills remaining that include capital improvement projects and continued funding for previously approved expenditures.
The total cost of the four remaining budget bills is around $5 billion.
Included in one of those bills is nearly $55 million for an expanded pre-kindergarten program.
Those four bills passed the Senate Friday afternoon. The House can either pass the bills as amended by the Senate or request compromises on them.
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