In a stunning move, the House has rejected a budget bill spending federal economic stimulus money that it had initially approved the previous day.
The 68-82 defeat of HCS HB 22 leaves its fate uncertain. The House gave the bill preliminary approval on a 97-56 vote. House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) acknowledged the drastic turn of votes shocked hm. He said he didn’t know what the future held for the bill. Icet spoke to reporters just prior to rushing off to a conference committee with Senators to negotiate over the $23 billion operating budget that must be approved by May 8th at 6pm.
HB 22 was a capital improvement bill. It contained a myriad of projects throughout the state, such as $31 million for an expansion of the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia. It outlined spending of nearly $400 million in federal money the first year and $158 million the second. It left enough money to provide a $1 billion tax cut, favored by House leadership.
Democrats railed against the bill, calling it pork. During the amendment process, Democrats criticized Republicans more for the process rather than the projects contained in the bill. Top Democrat in the House, Paul LeVota of Independence, said House Republicans should not have by-passed the Budget Committee to rush the bill to the floor, claiming that created mistakes in the bill.
One major change was made during floor debate. House members divided up $50 million that had been allocated for a new office building in Jefferson City. The money was allocated to various projects; $10 million was set aside for a highway interchange in Jefferson City, $4.23 million for a DNA testing lab in Kirksville, $2.5 million for a plant science facility in Mexico, among other projects. The House restored $31 million the Rules Committee had stripped from the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia after Democrats had walked out of the committee meeting. In another move during floor debate, $12 million dollars was taken from a fund to pay ethanol plant incentives and given to aid the financially strapped Metro transit system in St. Louis.
Those projects and more now are in limbo.