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House approves supplemental budget

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House approved HB 14, the supplemental budget allocating federal coronavirus relief money, Tuesday by a vote of 133 to 4. 

HB 14 seeks to distribute the state’s remaining $1.2 billion in CARES Act funds to various state departments, including the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Higher Education, Office of Administration, and others. The funds must be used by Dec. 30, according to State Budget Director Dan Haug.

A kerfuffle occurred on the House Floor during Tuesday’s debate about school feeding programs after Rep. Justin Hill decried the expense.  

“This is keeping other people’s priorities over educating our students,” Hill said. “Since March, students have not been educated, districts all over the state are doing different things and using different methods, and we’re looking at other priorities over education? It’s an embarrassment that this is our focus.”

Rep. Raychel Proudie fired back, saying: “Hungry kids do not learn. We will certainly use this money to feed these kids.”

The only considered amendment during the perfection process also dealt with using federal funds for school food programs. The amendment, from Rep. Deb Lavender, was ultimately rejected. 

The bill passed unanimously through the House Budget Committee Monday evening, with a single “housekeeping amendment” attached. It goes to the upper chamber next amid rumors Gov. Mike Parson will allow lawmakers to address COVID liability issues as well. 

Rep. Jon Carpenter gave an impassioned speech ahead of the final vote, calling on the legislature and the governor to “take this thing seriously” while warning about the increased hospitalizations of Missourians with COVID-19. 

Parson called the extraordinary session last month, tasking the General Assembly with creating a supplemental budget for the 2021 fiscal year to spend the state’s remaining $1.2 billion in CARES Act funds. The governor provided the legislature with a series of recommendations last week, which was folded into the budget bill. 

The bill includes a funding plan for the Pretrial Witness Protection Fund, which passed over the summer without a fiscal note. The fund would receive $2 million for the 2021 fiscal year, with half coming from general revenue and the remainder coming out of the Federal Victims of Crime Fund.