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Missouri legislature passes nearly $49 billion state operating budget

Lawmakers walk up the steps of the Missouri State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023, in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri legislature passed an operating budget Friday just hours before the deadline.

Updated at 7:20 p.m. May 5 with more information on the budget and comments from lawmakers

The Missouri legislature passed a state operating budget totaling almost $49 billion on Friday, which is roughly $1 billion more than Gov. Mike Parson proposed earlier in the year.

Lawmakers also passed four additional budget bills for the upcoming fiscal year containing funding for capital improvements and other long-term projects, as well as continued funding for previously approved expenditures. Those four bills total around $5.1 billion.

The passage of the entire budget came just hours before the constitutional deadline of 6 p.m. Friday.

Speaking after its passage, Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, praised the budget.

“The end result, I think, has been and will be transformational in many ways for folks in the state of Missouri,” Rowden said.

That budget has $2.8 billion to widen Interstate 70 to a minimum of three lanes in each direction. An earlier version of the plan would have cost almost $860 million and would have widened the highway only in the St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City areas.

Senate Appropriations Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, thinks this is a six- or seven-year project.

“Maybe I should apologize up front for the traffic, but I think the end result is going to be something that, quite frankly, generationally will transform that artery across the state,” Hough said.

House Majority floor leader Jon Patterson, R-Lee’s Summit, said he was in favor of the I-70 plan as someone who drives the highway frequently.

“I think there are parts of I-70 that are unsafe. And now with it being six lanes, I think it'll improve safety and congestion and it's overall a good thing for the state,” Patterson said.

The budget also has $29.4 million to provide a baseline teacher salary of $38,000. While that program existed in the last budget, the state only provided 70% of that funding and required a local match. This year, the legislature adopted an additional $7.6 million to eliminate the need for a local match.

Also approved Friday was $55 million toward expanded pre-kindergarten.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, spoke in favor of the budget bill funding K-12 education and mentioned the $38,000 base salary as well as funding for child care.

“There's a lot of really good stuff for kids in this bill, including increased funding for child care so that we know there will be more options, safe options, available for parents,” Arthur said.

Other items in the budget include fully funding school transportation for the second year in a row and $4.5 million in public library funding, which was initially removed by the House.

Patterson spoke on that funding and mentioned the libraries he visits with his children.

“The fact that we did put the state aid in the final budget, I think was a great thing and it was the right thing to do,” Patterson said.

For the Kansas City area, $50 million was allocated to go toward stadium improvements for the World Cup.

“The sport around the world, quite frankly, is soccer. And when you bring in, you know, teams from all over the globe, we're going to be on stage,” Hough said. “And I want to make sure that we have the necessary investments put in place to make that thing go as well as it can.”

While the budget does include raises for care providers, including those who aid people with disabilities, many Democrats expressed disappointment the raises weren’t higher.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said that in the same budget, lawmakers agreed to give a 20% raise to Highway Patrol and Capitol police, but not to give higher raises to teachers or care providers.

“I think it's very frustrating that we don't show that same value in prioritizing our ability to compete for workers in those other essential areas that also are about our safety and welfare as a state,” Merideth said.

Merideth said he did support those raises, he just wished that 20% would have gone to other places in the budget too.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said that was an area of the budget she was disappointed in.

“These are some of the hardest-working and lowest-paid employees in the entire state. They care for people with disabilities. ... So I was disappointed that we didn't fairly compensate them,” Arthur said.

Also within the bill containing funding for the Departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services is $300 million for a new psychiatric hospital in Kansas City.

Something that didn’t make the budget was language prohibiting state spending on expenditures related to diversity, equity and inclusion.

That anti-DEI wording was initially on all of the budget bills, but the Senate later stripped that language.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo said he was glad to see that language not included.

“I'm relieved that they didn't go down the path of insanity for the 100th time this session,” Rizzo said.

The budget now goes to the governor’s office.

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