The Missouri Legislature has approved an approximately $29.7 billion state operating budget, one that prevents undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state college tuition.
The state Constitution requires Missouri lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by today. The House approved the budget at about 11:15 Thursday evening, and the Senate approved it at about 1:45 this morning.
House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, led Thursday’s House effort to reject a budget conference committee’s recommendation that would have allowed those with unlawful immigration status to receive in-state tuition.
“And the House position is that we are going to reserve our limited resources and taxpayer dollars to subsidize in-state tuition for those with legal, lawful status,” Smith says.
State Rep. Curtis Trent, R-Springfield, who serves on the Budget Committee, also successfully urged his House colleagues to reject the budget conference committee’s recommendation.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if we allow this language to stand, people primarily in rural areas will be most injured by this, who will be most denied the opportunities that this state subsidy for education provides,” says Trent.
Trent says his southwest Missouri constituents oppose providing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. State Rep. Dean Dohrman, R-La Monte, agrees with Trent, citing his constituents in Johnson, Pettis and Saline counties.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, criticized Thursday’s House vote on the undocumented immigrants, noting the House hasn’t rejected a conference committee recommendation since 2009.
State Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, is also critical, saying the conference committee had compromised on the issue.
As for the overall budget, Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, says it fully funds the school foundation formula and increases school transportation funding.
“At the start of the 2019 legislative session (in January), the Senate Democratic Caucus called for fully funding the school foundation formula, increasing school transportation dollars, strengthening our workforce through Higher Education and job training, and making sure our mental health safety net is there for anyone in crisis. Today, Senate Democrats passed a bipartisan, balanced budget that achieves all of these goals and more,” Senator Walsh’s statement reads, in part.
The budget also includes a three percent pay increase for state employees, along with an $8 million retention pay plan aimed at wage increases for state Department of Corrections (DOC) staff.
The budget also includes the closing of the maximum-security Crossroads Correctional Center in northwest Missouri’s Cameron. House Budget Committee ranking Democrat Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, supports the plan.
“Which I know is important to a lot of people in this building (Missouri Capitol), the consolidation of the two correctional facilities on the western side of the state,” Kendrick says.
Kendrick backs Governor Mike Parson’s (R) plan to consolidate Crossroads with Western Missouri Correctional Center, which is also located in Cameron.
Governor Parson says the estimated $20 million savings from closing Crossroads will give DOC employees a one percent pay raise for two years of continued service.
Parson outlined the corrections plan in January, at a Statehouse press conference with DOC Director Anne Precythe.
Precythe noted in January that Western Missouri Correctional Center has 1,900 beds, about 800 more than Crossroads. She also says there’s more programming available there and more space, which gives prisoners the opportunity to participate in more activities and keep them busy, which she says makes it a safer environment.
Missouri lawmakers will return to Jefferson City on Monday. The 2019 session ends on May 17.
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