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House adds sunset to Fast-Track program, sends bill to Senate

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Lawmakers in the Missouri House have given their approval to a measure that would launch a grant program for adults seeking to further their education in high demand jobs.

In a bipartisan 101-49 vote, the Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant was given approval and now moves to the Missouri Senate. HB 225, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Swan, was left mostly intact, though the House made the program it’s own as it moved through the process.

“Fast-Track creates an opportunity by meeting workforce needs, improving our economy, and benefiting Missourians in all regions of our state,” said Swan.

The scholarship program, first unveiled by Gov. Mike Parson during his State of the State speech and subsequent budget recommendation, is specifically aimed at adults. Tuition assistance would be applied after all other scholarships and grants.

Missourians who are 25-years-old or older looking to pursue training in high demand jobs would qualify for the program. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree would be ineligible along with anyone enrolled in an education program for the prior two academic years.

Those looking to utilize the grant must have an adjusted gross income of less than $40,000 annually for an individual, or $80,000 per year for a couple.

“It captures the folks that are falling through the cracks,” said Rep. Doug Beck.

In fiscal review, after the measure was perfected, the committee added a 3-year sunset on the program. The program would be eligible for a 6-year renewable by the legislature at the end of the initial period.

“The sunset gives us some accountability,” said Swan.  

The proposed program did receive pushback from those who had concerns with the program.

One lawmaker raised concerns that between the Fast-Track program and the A+ program they would essentially be providing free college. Another raised the concern that it touches new money.

Though the bill has been passed out of the House, it still faces budget appropriates and the Missouri Senate.

Parson sought $22 million for Fast-Track in his budget recommendation. Following the changes to the bill and an updated fiscal note, a House appropriations subcommittee is recommending reducing that allocation by more than $4 million.

The Senate has also pushed back on the measure. While the Senate version of the bill was being debated, lawmakers floated an idea of a cap on tuition or those in the program being required to stay in Missouri for a set period of time.

In a weekly press availability, Sen. Caleb Rowden the workforce development conservation isn’t just post-secondary education.

“I would say that there is a good possibility that you’ll see the charter bill or ESA bill on the floor probably next week, which I think will probably be followed not too long after by another conversation Fast-Track,” said Rowden.