This is the Week of the Budget. We came back from spring break to a very busy and important week as we strive to approve the 13 House Appropriation bills. Debating the budget can be very emotional and mentally exhausting and we do not take this responsibility lightly. We are the stewards of the taxpayers’ money and we try to appropriate the funds to the best of our ability. On Thursday, we finalized the budget in the House and it will now be sent to the Senate for their approval. Both the Senate and House will now need to agree on the final version. Passing a state budget that covers $30 billion is a major responsibility and one that all Legislators take very seriously.
One of the 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. The spending plan funds the reorganization of the Department of Economic Development so that the department can streamline and improve efficiency. It also 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. The budget plan includes $30 million for the Missouri One Start program that will help businesses train their workers and upgrade their skills. Additionally, the budget proposed by the House 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. Furthermore, the budget provides $8.5 million to support Missouri’s adult high schools that were created by legislation passed in 2018.
Other budget highlights include:
• $1 million of spending approved to make improvements to the Missouri School for the Blind
• Funding of Missouri scholarships
• $500,000 increase for A+ Scholarships
• Nearly $1 million increase for Access Missouri 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)
• $300,000 for the new Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program
• $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)
• $9 million in rebased rates for developmental disability providers (improving access to services)
• $1 million to start an Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes (ECHO) for autism
• $153,000 to fund the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit inside the Department of Health & Senior Services
• $500,000 increase of the State Public Defender’s Office to address a backlog of cases in some counties
• $1.1 million to fund juvenile justice offices (in Kansas City & St. Louis) operated by the State Public Defender’s Office
• Consolidation of two prisons in Northwest Missouri
• Savings of prison closure to fund critically needed pay plan adjustments for Department of Corrections personnel