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Bonding compromise sent to governor’s desk

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The one thing most lawmakers in the House agree on: borrowing money to fix roads and bridges in Missouri is not ideal. But they also agree that something needs to be done.

“I am going to express my concerns with the bill but also in the end vote yes on it,” said Democratic Rep. Kip Kendrick.

“This is just a bandage,” said GOP Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer.

On the last day of session, the House voted 107-31 to truly agree and finally pass a measure designed to repair Missouri’s transportation infrastructure.

The compromised version creates $301 million in bonds to be paid back over seven years to expedite repair or replacement for 250 bridges in Missouri and is contingent upon MoDOT receiving a highly competitive federal grant. It would cost about $46 million per year but includes an additional $50 million allocated from the general revenue to “jump start” the projects.

The bond is contingent upon the state being awarded “sufficient funds” through a federal grant. The lack of a specific amount was a point of interest for lawmakers who also inquired as to what are the chances the state gets awarded enough.

House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Cody Smith noted because of the link to the grant, “there is a significant chance we will be back here next year” due to the fact Missouri may not be awarded the grant.

“It does not do anything to address the long-term needs of our state,” said Kendrick. “This is a short-term, immediate solution to keep our bridges and roads from crumbling.”

Most members of the body echoed the comments. Proponents noted the roads are in worse condition now than they were one year ago. 

However, not all members were on board for the bonding proposal.

Rep. Justin Hill recognized the need for repairs to the transportation system but decried borrowing on the taxpayer’s dime.

“Since we can’t do our jobs and appropriate correctly, now we are asking to borrow money,” said Hill.