The Missouri House voted Friday afternoon in Jefferson City to give final approval to a $35.2 billion state operating budget, after some heated discussion earlier in the day about feral hogs and other issues relating to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, (right) and House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, discuss the state budget in Jefferson City on May 8, 2020 (photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The budget is now in the Missouri Senate, which must approve it by 6 p.m. tonight.

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, says the compromise budget between the House and Senate contains $20 million for Missouri meat processing facilities, impacted by COVID-19. Smith says it’s for plants with less than 200 employees, for support, workforce assistance, equipment and capital improvements.

The bipartisan funding for the plants is aimed at helping them address supply chain disruptions and to mitigate health and environmental impacts as a result of the pandemic.

The budget also contains $12 million for broadband expansion, relating to the pandemic. Budget Chairman Smith and ranking Democrat Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, say that is critical.

It also includes $2 million for the Missouri Lottery to advertise. The original House budget cut it to $100,000, but the Senate allocated $3 million. Budget negotiators settled on the $2 million.

There was also heated discussion today on the Missouri House floor, after State Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, blasted the Senate, saying they took $100,000 out of the budget for hungry women/children. Lavender called that decision shameful.

State Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove, and Representative Lavender then had a heated discussion about “setting the record straight”, but disagree on what that record is. They spoke over each other at times.

State Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, described Lavender’s floor comments as “factually wrong”, saying the budget expands the “Share the Harvest” program to $300,000. Ross also blasted the Missouri Department of Conservation, saying they tried to put $100,000 in the budget for a new forest service employee.

Ross tells the House that employee would have “harassed” feral hog hunters at the Mark Twain National Forest.

Normally, the Missouri Capitol’s public fourth-floor galleries are packed with lobbyists and schoolchildren, during budget debate. However, due to COVID-19 concerns, there was just one person observing today.

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