This week we put our stamp of approval on a balanced, fiscally responsible state operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July. The plan contains approximately $29.25 billion in funding allocated among the state’s departments and programs.
One of my key points of emphasis in the budget is funding for the state’s K-12 public schools. As it heads to the Senate, the budget fully funds the school foundation formula with $3.94 billion in funding. The total represents an increase of more than $61 million in funding for the formula. The education budget also includes a $5 million increase for a total of $108 million in funding for transportation expenses for local school districts. Additionally, the budget includes a $3 million increase for the Parents as Teachers program. In total, funding for pre-K-12 education is increased by $116 million in the spending plan approved by the House.
Another priority expressed in the budget is a commitment to workforce development. It provides approximately $18.5 million in funding for a new Fast Track Scholarship Program that will target adults over 25 who are working toward certification or a degree in a high demand field. Additionally, the budget provides $19 million in funding for the Missouri Excels Workforce Initiative that provides funding to institutions of higher education to develop and expand employer-driven education and training programs.
Other budget highlights include:
• $1 million of spending approved to make improvements to the Missouri School for the Blind
• $500,000 increase for A+ Scholarships
• $11 million to perform maintenance and repairs at Missouri colleges and universities
• $100 million for statewide bridge repairs (according to the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program)
• $8 million for major water reservoir projects
• $440,000 to initiate new plant industries program (industrial hemp)
• $13.5 million of Volkswagen settlement funds appropriated to clean air projects and grants
• $2.5 million to expand access to broadband Internet service in unserved and underserved areas of rural Missouri
• $6.4 million for port projects along Missouri rivers
• $5 million for alternatives to jail program (pre-trial electronic monitoring to save counties and the state millions in prisoner per diem costs)
• Consolidation of two prisons in Northwest Missouri
• Savings of prison closure to fund critically needed pay plan adjustments for Department of Corrections personnel
Other Bills Sent to the Senate
HB 451 modifies the inspection requirement for non-commercial motor vehicles which is currently required in order to renew a motor vehicle license. New motor vehicles after being sold will not have to have an inspection until after 10 years or the vehicle odometer reads 150,000 miles.
HB 763 defines “private schools” as any non-public school or school operated by a religious organization and specifies that private schools shall not be required to increase their minimum wage to $8.60 or the applicable federal rate on January 1, 2019 or increase it annually as required by current law. Private schools often have a smaller budget and less room to absorb annual increases to payroll.
HB 655 defines the term “landowner’s agent” for the purposes of who may take, attempt to take, or kill a feral hog with the use of artificial light. Many farmers and landowners work all day and cannot be up all night searching for feral hogs. Many times landowners bring others in to combat the damage the hogs cause and they need all the tools possible to eradicate the hogs.
HB 267 allows a school district to offer an elective social studies unit on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, or the New Testament of the Bible. Adding Bible literacy courses will bolster education and make society a better place.