JEFFERSON CITY —
Left intact was money for the long-sought widening of Interstate 70 across Missouri’s midsection, as well as additional spending on child care and disabled residents.
Gone were $555.3 million in line-items that covered multiple local community projects, including $2 million to clean up abandoned buildings in the north St. Louis County city of Kinloch and $5 million to remove condemned and vacant property in St. Louis.
He also slashed funding for a flood wall in St. Louis from $10 million to $5 million and cut $23 million that would have gone to new police and 911 facilities in the city.
“With this budget, our administration has done the right thing — the conservative thing — to make strategic investments and maintain responsible spending,” Parson said.
Despite the cuts, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones said the state budget reflects some of the city’s top priorities.
“Disagreeing on some issues doesn’t mean elected leaders need to be disagreeable on others,” Jones said.
Parson, a Republican, signed the package of bills on the final day of the state’s fiscal year. The new budget goes into effect Saturday amid concerns about flattening tax revenues after two years of robust, post-pandemic income.
Rural roads also could get a makeover thanks to a new $100 million pool of money to improve so-called “low volume” roads.
But, Parson vetoed $28 million to study a widening of Interstate 44, as well as similar projects seeking to improve traffic flow near Hannibal and on U.S. Route 63 near Cabool. They had been inserted into the spending blueprint to win votes from rural lawmakers who don’t represent districts near I-70.
The governor also cut $2.5 million to study the conversion of U.S. Route 36, an east-west route across northern Missouri, to interstate highway status.
While spending down some of the state’s more than $6 billion surplus was a priority for lawmakers before normal budgetary pressures begin to return, Parson said some of the legislative earmarks placed in the blueprint should be handled by local governments.
That means Hazelwood will not get money for a new bucket truck. A school in Affton will not receive funds for exterior improvements.
“Missouri’s economy is strong. Our revenues are up, businesses are growing and investing, and we maintain a historic revenue surplus, but we must not spend just for the sake of spending,” Parson said.
In explaining some of his vetoes, like one to spend $2.5 million on school safety software, Parson said they appeared to be inserted into the spending plan to benefit one or more particular vendors.
He also vetoed 20% raises for Missouri Highway Patrol workers, reducing them to $4,000 bonuses. He also nixed $2 million to be used for recruiting members of the Missouri National Guard, arguing that the federal government should pay for that.
The governor also cut $1.9 million that was to help start a grocery cooperative in St. Louis County. He said local funding should be pursued for the project.
Great Rivers Greenway, which is in the midst of a major expansion of pedestrian and biking paths in the region, lost out on a $10 million earmark.
Kirkwood lost a $3 million outlay that would have helped pay for a community center.
Parson removed $46 million to pay for a new nursing facility at St. Louis Community College, saying the state already is funding other construction projects for the school, including a makeover of the Wildwood campus.
In St. Charles County, Parson cut a $5 million program for drinking water improvements and $7 million for a new 911 call center.
Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, who chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee said the budget addresses issues that concern Missourians.
“They are talking about the roads they drive on, the jobs they have and the jobs they want, caring for the aging generations and providing education and a future for the children of Missouri. This budget focuses on tackling these issues right now, primarily through one-time capital investment,” Hough said.
Parson did not touch many of the priorities he had called for in January when he unveiled his plan.
The budget, for example, includes more than $135 million to bolster pre-kindergarten and child care programs designed to get more Missourians into the workforce.
The plan also raises wages for privately contracted workers who care for developmentally disabled Missourians to at least $16 per hour.
The budget also fully funds Parson’s request for $13.7 million to add 100 workers at the Department of Social Services Children’s Division in an attempt to help the state’s under-funded child welfare programs.
Public schools and universities will see increases in the coming year.
The $9.7 billion K-12 budget will fully fund the school foundation formula and fully fund transportation costs for school districts, while colleges and universities will see a 7% increase to account for inflation.
Schools also will be able to tap into a $50 million grant program to add safety features designed to stop school shooters.