(The Center Square) – The Missouri General Assembly met its constitutional responsibility on Friday as it passed and sent a $50.8 billion budget to Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
As the House began to go through the 12 spending bills on Friday morning, Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, warned members about spending too much time on the bills.
“Remember,” Plocher said, “we want to get home before it gets dark.”
House Democrats did speak against some elements of budget bills. Before a vote to approve a 20% pay increase for the Missouri Highway Patrol, there were comments regarding raising salaries of teachers, those working in health and social services and others in state government by a similar amount.
When $2.8 billion was passed for the expansion of Interstate 70 from St. Louis to Kansas City, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, and the ranking minority member on the budget committee, pointed out the contrast between that amount and the $10 million for public transportation.
However, before the final bill was passed, Merideth praised the collaboration and compromises reached by both parties.
“I just have to say that this is what we could look like more often,” Merideth said. “This is a very bipartisan budget.”
Merideth praised the Senate’s restoration of $4.5 million in state funding for libraries, which was removed due to a lawsuit filed on behalf of libraries by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding censorship concerns with a state law. Merideth also thanked the Senate for removing House amendments to each spending bill prohibiting the state from doing business with any entity with diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“I think we’re in a much better place that we can all agree on,” Merideth said. “Sure, there’s plenty we still disagree on. And I get that. But the budget is not the place to be inserting those fights.”
After the Senate passed the budget, members from both parties praised first-year Appropriations Committee Chairman Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield.
“Every year there are a myriad of challenges and this year was no exception,” said Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City. “I appreciate how he juggled the priorities of members of the Appropriations Committee and members of the House.”
Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston, thanked Hough for the way he conducted the appropriations process.
“To be able to be truly reassured in politics is not something you see every day,” Rehder said. “Thank you for being a statesman and not taking the budget into the political realm.”
The largest budget bills support the Department of Social Services ($16 billion) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education ($9.8 billion).