(The Center Square) – As the Missouri General Assembly faces Friday’s constitutional deadline to approve a budget, Senate leaders believe the 2024 fiscal year spending plan will be transformational.
“I think the thing that’s important to remember about the budget the Senate passed is we left $2.5 billion in the bank,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield. “This is, in my opinion, a responsible budget that put in place transformative investments, not just in infrastructure but in education and teacher pay, a program that was very successful last year.”
The Senate’s budget of $50 billion is approximately $4 billion larger than the House version. Leaders from both parties will be in conference committee meetings this week to reach agreement on all budget bills. The largest increase was approximately $2 billion for expansion of Interstate 70, which runs from Kansas City to St. Louis.
“The budget was, I think, generational in its impact,” Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, told reporters late last week. “I think the I-70 money, which anybody would be crazy not to support, is something that’s going to do tremendous things for this state in the coming decade.”
A House amendment on each budget bill containing a prohibition of conducting business with contractors if they have diversity, equity and inclusion programs was removed in the Senate. However, some Senate Republicans attempted to reinsert the amendment.
“I really wholeheartedly appreciate our colleagues on the other side of the aisle who stand with business, who stand with actual conservatives who value letting business be what business is and decided to vote with Democrats who are clearly the party of business now,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence said. “Do I believe that’s the end of the conversation? No.”
Hough said most Missourians don’t believe they’re negatively affected by diversity, equity or inclusion programs.
“I’ll be honest, I think that’s one of those things that, for whatever reason, boils up as some type of a boogeyman right now,” Hough said. “I don’t think that is something the majority of Missourians are worried about. I think the majority of Missourians are worried about getting back and forth to work, making sure that their schools are taken care of, their teachers are taken care of, and their hospitals are taken care of.”