The Missouri House reconsidered its defeat of a $550 million capital improvement bill and, this time, passed it overwhelmingly.
Cries of pork led to a stunning defeat on Thursday, prompting House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) to challenge one of the main critics Monday night.
"If you could give me one example of a pork project, is all I’m asking," Icet pointedly asked of Rep. J. C. Kuessner (D-Eminence) during House floor debate.
Kuessner wouldn’t name one, focusing instead on the rushed process Republicans used to get the bill to the floor last week. Kuessner claimed that any project not subject to the normal budget process amounted to pork.
Icet dismissed the answer.
"I get this sneaking suspicion you’re not going to give me one example of a pork project," Icet said to Kuessner.
"Gentleman, I’m not going to call anybody’s project pork," Kuessner responded. "I’m talking any project that you get into a bill, because you have the influence, the connections."
The exchange came after Rep. Tim Jones (R-Eureka) made a motion to reconsider the vote on HB 22 . The House defeated the capital improvement bill on Thursday by a vote of 68-to-82. That defeat stunned House leadership, especially since it came after the bill received initial approval on a 97-to-56 vote after the amendment process. The House voted 135-to-19 Monday to reconsider the bill and then approved it 117-to-42. It now moves to the Senate with four days left for budget bills to win approval this session.
HB 22 funds many projects, including $31 million dollars for the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center in Columbia, $23 million to ethanol producers, $12 million for Metro transit in St. Louis, $9.3 million for a new Bellefontaine center for the developmentally disabled in St. Louis and $4.2 million for a new DNA lab in Kirksville. Money also has been set aside for repairs to veterans’ homes in the state, National Guard armories and other state buildings. Some of the money will pay off debt early.
While the bill totals $550 million, more than $350 million comes from the federal government. Much of the federal money is from the budget stabilization funds included in the $787 billion economic stimulus package approved by Congress.
After defeat on Thursday, Icet welcomed another chance on Monday. He said he was surprised that the House approved the motion to reconsider so easily. He said he thought that vote would be close, let alone the vote to approve the bill.
"So, I was just surprised on both counts, quite honestly," Icet told reporters.