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Missouri House budget includes $727M for I-44 expansion from Joplin to Rolla

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(The Center Square) – House leaders revealed its version of Missouri’s fiscal year 2025 budget before adjourning for spring break, and it includes $727.5 million for expanding I-44.

“That includes a variety of projects from the Joplin area to six lanes all of the way through Springfield and over to Rolla,” House Budget Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, and a candidate for his party’s nomination for treasurer, said during a media briefing on Thursday. “This is a generational investment to rebuild one of the main arteries across our state.”

The appropriation follows $2.8 billion appropriated last year to rebuild and expand I-70 between Kansas City and the western edge of the St. Louis metro area.

House Democrats were surprised to see Smith’s proposal just before spring break as budget committee hearings started in December before the session started.

”It’s unusual for us to see a summary given at a press conference before we’ve even reviewed as a committee,” Budget Committee Ranking Minority Member Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, said Thursday during a media briefing. “But we’re going to go do that shortly and, obviously, we’ll have a lot more to say once we’ve done that. From the top lines presented … they are talking a lot about how they cut the size of it significantly, but from what I can tell that’s more form than substance.”

Smith disagreed to the characterization the early start of meetings wasn’t of value.

“We have an approximately $50 billion budget and we don’t want to rush through the process,” Smith said. “We want to be thoughtful about how we craft the budget. And so I feel good about the time that we’ve taken, the amount of hours that we’ve invested in this and I feel really good about the finished product.”

The House proposal is approximately $49.9 billion, less than Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s $52 billion budget proposed during his January State of the State address.

“When the governor made his recommendations earlier this year, we found, ultimately, that he proposed we use the surplus in part to support ongoing revenues and require—essentially balance the budget—that way,” Smith said. “The Missouri House budget brings That ongoing spending back within the range of the revenue estimates. We are prioritizing balancing that budget with our ongoing revenues and with an eye on sustainability going towards the future.”

Smith said the budget prioritizes public safety, transportation and public education.

Other transportation spending includes $100 million for rural and low-volume roads. It allocates a $120.6 million increase to fully fund the education foundation formula for elementary and secondary education and increases school transportation by $14 million. Minimum teacher pay would be increased to $40,000 per year with an allocation of $4 million.

Smith’s budget also includes $8 million to fund the Missouri National Guard and Missouri Highway Patrol deployments to the southern border for the entire fiscal year 2025, which begins July 1.

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