JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Some newspapers across Missouri hiked their ad prices for the state by more than 20 percent in a matter of two weeks, according to the Secretary of State.

Going through his department’s budget before the House budget committee, Secretary Jay Ashcroft said he saw price gouging from a number of newspapers.

The State of Missouri is constitutionally required to place ads in all the measures on the ballot in newspapers in each county. The secretary of state’s office has a $6 million budget to do this during the 2018 election.

For the November general election, the office requested an original quote from various newspapers for the print job on September 27, 2018, and then got a final price quote on October 8, 2018. In that two week period, the print job did not change, but the price quote changed by as much as 700 percent.

Ninety-one newspapers’ estimates remained unchanged and seven decreased. St. Louis Community News, Festus Jefferson Leader, Richmond News, Willow Springs Howell County News, Albany Ledger, Grant City Times-Tribune, and Princeton Post-Telegraph dropped their prices between 2 percent to 30 percent.

In a letter to the Missouri Press Association in October 2018, Ashcroft outlined the papers who increased their prices by more than 20 percent.

Sikeston Standard Democrat raised their price from $11,220 to $90,255.88, a 704 percent increase. The St. Joseph News Press upped their quote from $145,456.08 to $256,668.71. The Doniphan Prospect-News upped their quote by 224 percent, the Linn Unterrified Democrat by 114 percent, the Pemiscot Press by 100 percent, the Columbia Tribune by 38 percent, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Kansas City Star each by just over 21 percent.

Ashcroft called a newspaper increasing it’s quote by 704 percent “despicable.”

“The taxpayer money is not well served doing that,” Ashcroft told the House Budget Committee. He asked lawmakers to find an alternative than the state having the shell out millions to print the ballot measures.

Rep. Peter Merideth agreed that wasn’t the best use of taxpayer funds but asked what could be done to change it. Since this is a constitutional requirement, most effective change would probably have to be a constitutional change, according to Ashcroft.