The Missouri House voted Wednesday in Jefferson City to give final approval to a $28 billion state operating budget that includes what supporters say is record funding for the K-12 education foundation formula.
The House approved the $28 billion budget, after almost eight hours of debate and discussion.
State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, notes the budget includes a $98 million increase for the formula used to finance Missouri’s schools.
“We’re (Missouri) spending $124 million more this year on education than we spent last year,” Alferman says. “So the body has a choice. If you do not value education, I encourage the (House) members to vote no.”
While Alferman emphasized several times on Wednesday that this is record funding for education, State Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, questions the numbers provided by House Republicans.
“And this body (the House) is a joke,” says Ellington. “Yesterday, we’re talking about school safety. We’re talking about arming teachers with guns, but the way that you make public schools or schools safe is actually increase the funding for education.”
The House voted 133-18 for the K-12 education measure, which is a top priority for Alferman. The Herman Republican is the House Budget Committee vice chairman.
One of the most heated House floor discussions involves the controversy over a 2017 death in eastern Missouri that involves the Bourbon virus.
The House voted Wednesday to cut the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) budget by about $800,000.
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, tells Missourinet the House budget cuts eight DHSS positions.
Meramec State Park Assistant Superintendent Tamela Wilson reportedly died from complications of the Bourbon virus, after being bitten by a tick.
Representative Alferman blasts DHSS on the House floor on Wednesday, for not providing information on how many Missourians have tested positive for the virus.
“I don’t know how some of you (House members) sleep at night defending this department. How you look your constituents in the eyes and tell them yes, we’re fighting for all the information that is owed to you. You’d rather stand up here on the floor and pontificate,” Alferman says.
But State Rep. Peter Meredith, D-St. Louis, disagrees. He tells the House the eight employees being cut are DHSS attorneys who handle consumer protection and protecting seniors and children from abuse.
The House budget also includes a $700 pay increase for state employees earning less than $70,000. Those making more than $70,000 would receive 1%.
The issue of funding for Harris-Stowe State University also was discussed on the House floor.
State Rep. DaRon McGee, D-Kansas City, tells House colleagues that Harris-Stowe needs help.
State Reps. Alferman and Bruce Franks Jr., D-St. Louis, agree that Harris-Stowe serves numerous underprivileged students.
The budget bill approved by the House 119-28 contains $750,000 in one-time funding for Harris-Stowe, which is less than the $2 million requested by State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis.
The House has approved another bill providing $750,000 in capital improvements for Harris-Stowe.
The Senate still needs to approve that. The Senate has approved all but one budget bill, and they’re expected to take that up on Thursday.
The Missouri Constitution requires the legislature to approve a balanced budget by Friday evening.
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