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Missouri House trims Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s budget by $2B, sends to Senate

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(The Center Square) – With the constitutional deadline to pass the state’s budget five weeks away, the Missouri House of Representatives on Thursday sent a $46.4 billion package to the Senate.

“The time frame is going to be tough, honestly,” Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, told reporters during an end-of the week press conference. “Getting through the process as we normally do to include the requisite number of weeks for the Senate to take and put their stamp on the budget… We’ll get it done, but the timeline is going to be tight.”

The House budget is more than $2 billion less than the proposal offered by Republican Gov. Mike Parson in January. However, $727.5 million included for expansion of I-44 in southwest Missouri is hundreds of millions more than Parson recommended.

“Our priority in crafting the Missouri House budget plan is to protect taxpayers and provide for essential services,” House Budget Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, and a candidate for his party’s nomination for treasurer, said in a statement. “I am proud to present a balanced budget that accomplishes these goals.”

Parson’s budget of approximately $52 billion left more than $2 billion in reserves. During a Senate Freedom Caucus press conference with reporters, Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, and a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor, said lower general revenue estimates are leading to a smaller budget.

“I don’t want to shy away from the idea that we need to make some significant cuts to the finances of the state,” Eigel said. “I think there are many things that I’ve been talking about for years that we’re going to be able to go in and look at over the next couple of weeks. And I’m excited to do that.”

The House budget includes a 3.2% pay raise for state employees and $8 million for the National Guard to continue its deployment after June 30 in Texas as part of Operation Lone Star.

House Democrats hope the Senate will reject the House version of the budget and pass something closer to Parson’s recommendation.

“The governor’s was better,” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, and the ranking minority member on the budget committee, told reporters during a media briefing. “It spent our money better. It put a significant amount of more money into schools. But even where we’re at, as I talk about every time we’re here, we’re falling behind. We’re falling behind all the states around us and the rest of the country.”

Merideth pointed to higher education getting a 2% increase in the budget when Parson asked for 3% and inflation is increasing operating costs at greater than 3%.

“Every time we do that, year after year, that’s a cut to their funding,” Merideth said. “It’s a cut in terms of real money value and how we’re funding education and things that make our state strong. So, yes, we have some increases in there, but if they’re less than inflation, they’re cuts.”

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