Higher Ed, Transportation Among Things Missouri Lawmakers Must Hash Out To Pass State's Budget | KBIA

Higher Ed, Transportation Among Things Missouri Lawmakers Must Hash Out To Pass State's Budget

Apr 25, 2019
Originally published on April 26, 2019 9:56 am

The Missouri House and Senate have approved their versions of the $29 billion budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. But there’s still work to be done ahead of the May 10 deadline to get it to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk, namely by the conference committee that’ll figure out how to square everyone’s desires.

“We’ll have a number of items that we’ll differ on and we’ll have the opportunity to visit about that and see where the General Assembly may land,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, an Andrew County Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Here’s a look at a few key areas where the budgets differ from one another and the governor’s recommendations.

Transportation

Parson wants the state to borrow $350 million in bonds to pay for road and bridge improvements.

House leaders proposed their own plan, which would directly allocate $100 million from the general fund over the next several years.

The Senate splits the difference, allocating $50 million in direct spending, bonding $300 million and paying off the debt in a shorter time than the governor’s plan. But it’s also contingent on the discovery of federal matching funds for the Interstate 70 bridge in Rocheport. (A separate bill on the bridge issue passed the Senate, and is awaiting consideration in the House.)

Higher education

In January, Parson proposed a new workforce development program called Fast Track, which would give grants for tuition assistance or training for adult workers. His budget allocates $22 million for the grants.

While the legislation authorizing the program has passed the House, it has not yet passed the Senate. The House budget contains close to $19 million in Fast Track funding, $10 million of which would come from state lottery revenue. The Senate plan allocates $10 million.

The governor also wanted to give $20 million in one-time spending for repairs and maintenance at four-year colleges and universities. The House is looking at $9 million less, while the Senate budget would directly allocate an extra $28 million in core funding to the state’s four-year institutions to spend as they wish.

Hegeman said the Senate plan would offer “flexibility” to the colleges and would represent a reversal of cuts to funding over the past several years.

Health care spending

Parson’s budget allocates money for the rising costs of MoHealthNet and other state health care programs. But the House and Senate are split on how to handle the costs.

The Senate would go ahead and allocate an estimated figure in the main budget for next fiscal year, while the House would wait and see whether the extra money is needed, and then handle it in the supplemental budget (which comes from unallocated general revenue dollars).

Next steps

The conference committee could start meeting as soon as next week, according to Hegeman. Once the General Assembly passes the budget, the governor can use a line-item veto if spending cuts are necessary.

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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