GOP-controlled Missouri House approves $50B budget with cuts, highway plan near KC

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Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Missouri House on Thursday approved a roughly $50 billion budget that cuts an estimated $2 billion requested by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

The proposed spending plan slashes money requested by Parson for a variety of programs using federal pandemic funds. It also reduces the percentage of money requested by the Republican governor for boosts to the state’s colleges and universities from 3% to 2%.

The budget for the next fiscal year, which takes effect July 1, now heads to the Missouri Senate. Once approved by both chambers, it would go to Parson’s desk where he can sign off or use his veto pen.

“It is our responsibility to ensure our state avoids wasteful spending and prioritizes critical infrastructure for the future,” said House Budget Chair Rep. Cody Smith, a Carthage Republican who is running for treasurer. “This plan is a step in the right direction.”

The budget passed by the House includes roughly $727 million to improve Interstate-44, a substantial increase from the $14 million requested by Parson in January. It also adds $1.5 billion to increase broadband access and $8 million to support border control efforts at the southern border with Mexico.

The budget also includes $53 million for improvements to the Interstate 35, Interstate 29 and U.S. 169 corridor in Clay, Jackson and Platte counties.

House Republicans this week rejected most attempts by Democrats to add money to the budget, including boosts to teacher pay, higher education and child care access.

“We make promises in this body that we don’t fulfill,” said Rep. Deb Lavender, a Manchester Republican, who criticized Republicans for not including her request to boost funding for mental health care providers.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, a Springfield Democrat, told reporters that Missouri taxpayers deserved better than the budget the House passed, rating the spending plan as “OK.”

“House Republicans had the power to do much better but consciously chose not to,” said Quade, who is running for governor. “Instead of improving state government, the majority opted for stagnation.”

Quade said that the House’s decision to cut $2 billion from Parson’s proposal means the Senate “will end up writing the state budget.”

Republicans also rejected an amendment that would have provided funding to an initiative designed to help victims of the February mass shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade. The proposal from Rep. Emily Weber, a Kansas City Democrat, would have used $10 million from the federal fund for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

The Missouri General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget each legislative session. The spending plan could run into resistance in the Missouri Senate, which began this year’s session gripped by infighting among Republican senators.

Thursday’s approval comes amid the looming expiration of a series of crucial taxes that fund the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health coverage to roughly 1 million residents.

Lawmakers have yet to take up a bill to reauthorize the taxes, collectively known as the Federal Reimbursement Allowance, or FRA.

Not renewing the FRA would lead to an estimated loss of $4.3 billion in state and federal Medicaid funds in fiscal year 2026, according to an analysis by the Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit that analyzes fiscal policy.

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, a Columbia Republican, told reporters Thursday that he and Sen. Lincoln Hough, a Springfield Republican who chairs the Senate’s budget-writing committee, wanted to see the FRA finished before they presented the Senate’s version of the budget.

“I think that’s the only responsible thing to do,” Rowden said. “In the absence of that $4 billion, you have a much different equation.”

But Sen. Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican and member of the hard-right Missouri Freedom Caucus, said he would oppose a version of the FRA that barred Medicaid dollars from going to affiliates of Planned Parenthood.

The push to add the anti-abortion language has been a consistent rallying cry for Eigel and other members of the hard-right caucus.

Far-right lawmakers first zeroed in on the FRA as a potential vehicle to block Planned Parenthood from receiving state funding in 2021, when a debate over the inclusion of that provision forced lawmakers into a special session. The bill passed without it, but some Republicans are hoping to see it added back in this year.

“There are conversations going on surrounding the FRA,” Eigel said. “But we continue to believe that if passing the FRA is important, so is protecting life. So we want to make sure that defunding Planned Parenthood becomes the norm.”