Missouri Senate passes $45 billion state budget, with compromises to come
With 2½ weeks remaining in the 2022 Missouri legislative session, the Senate spent Tuesday voting on and passing its over $45 billion version of the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The bills now go to the House, where the chambers will work to achieve compromises through conference committee.
The Senate outspent the House’s budget in nearly every bill, with the largest change coming in funding for the state’s public K-12 schools, where the Senate allocated an additional $500 million.
Some of that additional funding includes more than $31 million to restore Gov. Mike Parson’s proposal to elevate starting teacher pay in the state to a minimum of $38,000 a year, which was something the House cut.
Another change the Senate added is $214 million more toward state funding of K-12 school transportation, ultimately fully funding the state’s possible obligation.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said the public education budget bill was a good example of some of the important investments the state was making.
“We've seen school districts make difficult choices because they've had to contribute more towards school transportation, things like going to four-day school weeks. So, I'm really grateful that we've included money for school transportation,” Arthur said.
Another change from the House’s version was to funds going toward state pensions. While the House decided to spread out Parson’s plan to put $500 million into the system over a period of five years, the Senate allocated all of it for this fiscal year.
Additionally, the budget contains funding for smaller programs or projects proposed by senators during the committee process.
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, repeatedly spoke against the amount of spending the Senate was allotting under this budget.
“We have an individual elected to the highest office in the state that is leading us headfirst into a level of government involvement in our lives that we've never seen before,” Eigel said. “That's a betrayal of what we told the voters how we would lead in campaign season.”
While the Senate outspent the House on most fronts, it did subtract $500,000 from Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office. The decision, which initially occurred in the committee process, came from Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who expressed dissatisfaction with Schmitt's recent actions against school districts.
In the only amendment offered on the floor on Wednesday during the budget process, Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, proposed putting that funding back into the budget.
“We have an office that's fighting for people and their livelihoods and their children. And I think it's incumbent upon us to ensure that these offices are able to function to the fullest extent that they possibly can,” Brattin said.
Senators voted against the amendment 22-9.
One area of the passed budget that did see some Democrat dissent was regarding the prohibition of state funding from going to Planned Parenthood, including clinics that do not provide abortions. Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said that Missourians use Planned Parenthood for other reasons related to their health care and that ceasing funding could jeopardize federal Medicaid dollars.
“I for one would not want to be the party responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars being lost to the state of Missouri and the ending of a program that helps support not only people but the providers who depend upon being reimbursed for the services that they provide,” Schupp said.
The Senate passed a total of 14 budget bills, including a supplemental budget for the remainder of this year. Of the bills for next year’s budget, only one did not contain any changes on the Senate side.
That bill, addressing public debt, is officially paid off, meaning such a bill will not exist during next year’s budget process. It now goes to Parson’s desk.
However, the remainder of the bills are likely to go to conference committee, where both the House and Senate will work to reach a compromise on a budget to send to Parson.
While the House’s version of the budget totaled more than $46 billion when it passed, it also included more than $2 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. That funding was not included in the Senate’s spending plan.
The House’s plan to allocate funding from the act is scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee this week.
Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg