The Missouri House is expected to take the budget up on Thursday morning in Jefferson City, after a conference committee approved a state budget late Wednesday night.
A Missouri House and Senate conference committee approved a $27 billion dollar state operating budget, after a marathon six-hours of discussions and delays.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) tells the Capitol Press Corps there are many positive things in the budget.
“You know at this point we got a fully funded (foundation) formula. We were able to get to the best possible restoration for all the four-year and two-year higher education institutions in the state,” Fitzpatrick says.
Fitzpatrick also notes they were able to pay off the biodiesel incentive fund.
Wednesday’s discussion in the Missouri House Lounge became heated, when State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) told conference members it was a “racist move” to take out $1 million for STEM graduate programs at historically black Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.
“It’s appalling to me that out of every university in this state, we are always being treated the worst,” Nasheed says, raising her voice. “It’s racist to me.”
Nasheed then blasted Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Dan Brown (R-Rolla), saying he did not fight hard enough for Harris-Stowe.
Senator Brown responded by saying lawmakers don’t have the money. Nasheed then told him that Missouri Republicans have passed too many tax breaks for corporate interests.
Nasheed then pledged to take the issue up on the Senate floor, indicating we could see a special session. She also said “Where is Kurt? I need Kurt Schaefer in here right now.”
Former State Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia), who was forced out of the Senate by term limits, is the former Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman.
After a closed-door meeting with several committee members, including Nasheed, a compromise was reached where $250,000 was inserted for the Harris-Stowe project.
Missourinet asked Fitzpatrick what was discussed during the closed-door meeting. Fitzpatrick would not discuss a private conversation but did note that Nasheed didn’t say it anymore.
Fitzpatrick also tells Missourinet that Harris-Stowe receives $9,000 per student from the state, which is the highest amount in Missouri.
The state Constitution requires Missouri lawmakers to pass a balanced budget by Friday evening at 6.
Chairman Fitzpatrick tells us the House should be able to go to the budget Thursday morning. And Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard (R-Joplin) told us Wednesday night that the Senate is prepared to vote on the budget on Thursday.
One budget item that received bipartisan support Wednesday was summer jobs.
State Rep. Justin Alferman (R-Hermann), the House Budget Committee vice chairman, is pleased the budget contains $4 million for summer jobs.
“I think this does pay tremendous dividends to a population, an at-risk population, that could potentially we’re going be paying for in other services down the road if we don’t provide a little bit of assistance in this way to them,” Alferman tells House and Senate negotiators.
Freshman State Rep. Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) agrees with Alferman. She tells lawmakers the program has helped about 7,400 youth in the past two years.
Alferman and Quade successfully fought to protect the $4 million for summer jobs. Quade says the summer jobs program focuses on 16 to 24-year-olds.
It’s also been a top priority for State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D-St. Louis).
The budget approved Wednesday night by the conferees also includes $150,000 for the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) for a one-time equipment purchase of a sandbagging machine.