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Missouri budget: 5 differences between Senate, House plans

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri legislators came back to the Capitol with a focus on passing the state budget before May 8. 

Sen. Dan Hegeman, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said the goal was to cut about $700 million in the budget, which the House did. The Senate was able to cut an additional $10 million from the budget in committee, he said. 

The House and Senate plan to go to conference over the differences in the budget later this week. 

Here’s a look at five major differences between the House and Senate budget plans. 

Higher education

One of the biggest cuts the House made was to higher education. It cut 10 percent, approximately $82 million, according to House Budget Chair Cody Smith.

But the Senate sought to preserve funding by turning to the federal Budget Stabilization Fund. 

The Senate’s position is structured so should the federal funding not come through, the state would go back to the House plan, Hegeman explained. 

Food supply protection

During committee, Republican Sen. Justin Brown was able to attach a provision allocating $20 million of federal coronavirus relief funding to increase processing capacity and enhance worker safety, among other things, for livestock producers and food processing facilities.

“Agriculture and food production are an important element of America’s critical infrastructure,” Brown said. “It’s imperative that we provide the resources necessary to keep these facilities open and our food supply secure. This funding will allow producers and processors to adapt to the rapidly evolving coronavirus crisis.” 

FTEs 

Sen. Denny Hoskins, a member of the Conservative Caucus, championed cutting empty full-time equivalents, or FTEs. Calling them “low-lying fruit,” Hoskins noted some of these positions had not been filled in several months — if not longer. 

While several state departments had FTEs Hoskins sought to cut, the Department of Transportation (MoDOT) saw the most. The Senate was able to eliminate 31 open FTEs, totaling about $1.4 million, from the department. 

“I applaud you for your effort to look at that over the past couple of years,” Hegeman told Hoskins on the Senate floor, noting there’s “room to continue looking at that effort.” 

FTEs in some departments, such as Mental Health and Corrections, were not touched, Hegeman said. 

A+ Schools Program

Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur went to bat for the Missouri A+ Schools Program, noting students who take advantage of it “could be hurting more now than ever.” The scholarship is offered to students who attend a qualifying public community college, vocational or technical school, or a specific private two-year vocational or technical school. 

The House had reduced the funding by $800,000. After Arthur’s recommendation, the Senate decided to put that money back through lottery funds, setting the budget for the program back at $43.5 million. 

Transportation 

The Senate included a new decision item allocating $5 million from the State Road Fund for MoDOT to give attention to low-volume roads. 

The upper chamber also included additional funding for improvements to an airport in Central Missouri. 


EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.