State budget set for conference committee showdown next week

By Camden Doherty, Missouri News Network
Posted 4/27/23

JEFFERSON CITY — The majority of the appropriations bills relating to the state budget were sent to a conference committee by the Missouri Senate on Thursday.

The committee will be made up …

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State budget set for conference committee showdown next week


JEFFERSON CITY — The majority of the appropriations bills relating to the state budget were sent to a conference committee by the Missouri Senate on Thursday.

The committee will be made up of budget committee members from both chambers and will attempt to resolve differences in spending and language in the two chambers’ budgets.

The Senate budget has $4 billion more in spending than the Missouri House and does not have the House’s controversial diversity, equity and inclusion language.

Both chambers’ budget heads, Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, and Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said they were open to discussing disparities between the budgets.

“I feel confident that we’ll be able to negotiate the differences,” Smith said.

The one difference that does not have wiggle room on the Senate side is the DEI language that the House included in the appropriations bills. Hough believes the language could jeopardize millions of dollars in funding for the state.

“We’re crafting a budget for 6.5 million people. When you insert uncertainty into that, I find it problematic. And, the majority of the folks — both Republicans and Democrats — in this 34-member body agree,” Hough said.

Democratic leadership agreed with Hough on the removal of the DEI language from the budget.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said he appreciated his colleagues who allowed “business to be business,” and voted down the DEI language.

They also sang the praises of Hough’s budget increases for Interstate 70 and schools. The phrase “generational budget” was thrown around by both Republican and Democratic leadership.

“Certainly the House Democrat Caucus is very happy about the provider rates that were put in recognizing that as we invest in people of the state, people in the state do better, and I think you’ll see that,” said Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Manchester, a member of the House budget committee.

“The budget was, I think, generational in its impact,” President Pro Tem Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said. “I think the I-70 money, which anybody would be crazy not to support, is something that’s going to go on to really do tremendous things for this state in the coming decade.”

Hough’s budget gives the Missouri Department of Transportation $2.8 billion for I-70 expansion and improvement of surrounding roads. The expansion and increased funding to early childhood care were both goals of Gov. Mike Parson at the start of the session.

The state budget has to be passed by the legislature by May 5, leaving the General Assembly a week to reconcile all the appropriations bills.

Initiative petition reform

After a week of negotiations and floor debate, the Senate passed initiative petition reform with slight compromises and changes from the House bill.

The biggest change made to HJR 43 by the Senate is to lower the approval percentage for a measure from 60% to 57%.

However, a measure would also pass if five out of the eight congressional districts approve it by a simple majority.

Republicans believe this will force initiative petitions that are popular in urban areas to also appeal in some way to rural Missouri voters.

“I think you’ve got to go talk to rural Missouri if you want to get something done, and that was the point,” Rowden said.

Senate Democrats who were blocking the bill’s progress all week let the bill through due to this change. They believe the changes give more room for the citizens to approve the initiative, but the caucus is still strongly against the ballot measure.

“I would say our caucus is obviously very much against doing anything that is silencing the voice of voters, which we believe that going after the initiative petition is exactly that,” said Minority House Leader Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield.

Republicans were firm in their stance that the state constitution should be harder to amend than with a fifty-plus-one vote, which is the current IP law.

“It should be harder to amend the Constitution,” Rowden said.

The bill now goes back to the House. If passed, it would go to a public vote on the 2024 ballot.


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