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Missouri Senate sends nearly $50 billion budget without anti-DEI language back to House

The Missouri Senate on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, during the first day of the legislative session in Jefferson City, Mo.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Senate, pictured in January, worked through Tuesday night and into early morning to pass a nearly $50 billion state operating budget. The House rejected the bills and has requested a joint committee meeting.

Missouri senators early Wednesday morning approved a $49.9 billion operating budget, which is $4.2 billion more than what the House passed weeks ago.

The budget returned to the House, where the body on Wednesday refused to pass the Senate’s versions of the bills and requested conference committees to reach a compromise between the chambers.

While the Senate was able to get its version of the budget through, most of the debate was spent on two amendments that sought to insert anti-diversity, equity and inclusion language.

Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, introduced both amendments and attempted to attach them to House Bill 2, which funds K-12 education.

The House originally added language prohibiting spending for “staffing, vendors, consultants, or programs associated with diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Opponents of the initial anti-DEI language said it would make it impossible for the state to work with any businesses.

However, Hoskins’ amendment did not apply to vendors and businesses, and instead said that “no funds shall be expended for intra-departmental “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion,” or “Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging” training, programs, staffing, hiring,” or to other similar programs.

“I don't think it's too much to ask to say, ‘Hey this wokeness should not be in state government,’ and that's what this amendment does,” Hoskins said.

However, Appropriations Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said the addition would add uncertainty to the budget.

“I know that we're going to hear arguments that say this doesn't jeopardize any federal funding, this doesn't jeopardize the utilization of contractors or vendors that provide valuable services to the people that we all represent. I don't know that's accurate,” Hough said.

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, supported the amendment and pushed back against the idea that the budget is not the place for this language.

“I would disagree that this is an inappropriate use of a budget bill, when we're clarifying how this particular pot of money, in this case state employees, can be used,” Eigel said.

In addition to some Republicans, Democrats repeatedly spoke against the amendment, including Sen. Barbara Washington, D-Kansas City.

“The statistics show that DEI is necessary because we still are in a community and in a state and in America, where the color of your skin and the sex of your body determines where you can live, where you can work and how much money you can make,” Washington said.

Hoskins’ first amendment did not come to a vote.

His second attempt failed 18-14. After the vote on Hoskins’ amendment, the Senate worked through the budget and finished after 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Included in the current version of the budget is the Senate’s plan to expand the entirety of Interstate 70 to three lanes in each direction at a cost of $2.8 billion.

Other bigger items in the budget include almost $56 million toward pre-kindergarten expansion, a 7% increase in funding for both four-year and community colleges and fully funding school transportation for the second year in a row.

On teacher pay, the Senate added $7.6 million to pay for the 30% match requirement schools needed to contribute to raise baseline teacher pay to $38,000. The total cost for the state to pay for the raises is $29.4 million.

“The feedback that we got last year was that while our school districts appreciated very much the 70/30 matching grant, a lot of our more rural districts could not match at that 30% rate,” Hough said.

Beyond education, the Senate also added money for provider rate increases for workers within the Departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services, $52 million toward stadium renovations in Kansas City in anticipation of the World Cup, $43 million toward a new veterinary hospital at the University of Missouri and $300 million toward a mental health hospital in Kansas City.

“That's a facility that is in utter disrepair and is in need of considerable investment for that population that it serves,” Hough said.

Also kept in the Senate version of the budget was $4.5 million in state funding for libraries that the House initially removed.

The Senate version of the budget outspends the House in almost every department, though the funding amounts could change during the joint committee discussion.

The legislature has a May 5 deadline to complete the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.