The Missouri House is expected to give final approval to a proposed $34.9 billion state operating budget Wednesday in Jefferson City.

State Reps. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, and Dean Dohrman, R-La Monte, (standing) discuss the state budget on April 27, 2020 in Jefferson City (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The House will gavel-in Wednesday morning at 10, and House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, tells Missourinet they’ll take up the budget at that time. He notes the Legislature must approve a balanced budget by May 8, under the state Constitution.

“It is the one constitutional duty of the Missouri General Assembly, and not only that but to pass a balanced budget and one that is on time,” Smith says.

The House voted to give initial budget approval on Monday. The proposed budget includes about $10 billion in general revenue, $14.5 billion in federal funding and another $10.3 billion in other funds.

The House Budget Committee’s ranking Democrat, State Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, spoke about the budget on the House floor on Monday. He expresses his frustration, saying the process has been rushed. Kendrick wants lawmakers to wait for a special session this summer.

“This (state operating) budget is being rushed. It’s being rushed in a pretty profound manner,” says Kendrick.

Kendrick says waiting until a special session this summer would give state lawmakers and the governor’s office a better forecast for state revenue projections. He emphasizes that he is not expressing frustration with Chairman Smith.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, also spoke on the floor on Monday. She also prefers waiting for a special session this summer to approve the budget, and notes Governor Mike Parson (R) made comments at recent media briefings indicating that was a possibility.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan and other leaders in the GOP-controlled Legislature say it’s important to keep state government funded and services operating without interruption.

The next fiscal year begins on July 1.

As for Chairman Smith, he tells Leader Quade the House will likely return to the Capitol this summer, for a special session on another supplemental budget.

“And what we are doing today (Monday) I think is taking a snapshot of where we are today, based on what we can know, which is not a great deal, of how the state budget will be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Smith says.

Lawmakers and staff members are being encouraged to wear their masks today, and to continue to practice social distancing protocols.

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