Missouri House refines state budget


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s GOP-led House on Tuesday refined a spending plan for the state’s next fiscal year, including billions of dollars in federal pandemic aid.

The measure needs several more approval votes to pass the Republican-led Senate.

The latest version of the budget includes nearly $2 billion in federal funding to help K-12 schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, including $75 million set aside to reimburse families for tutoring and other expenses to help students catch up.

Another $444 million is planned to support child care services in the state. Public colleges and universities would get a 5.4% budget increase, not including additional funds for building improvements and other projects.

Mainly Democratic critics slammed Republicans for not spending enough money and leaving millions of federal dollars unspent.

“Yeah, we left a lot of money unspent,” said Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith. “We will get there in time.

House Democratic Leader Crystal Quade warned that House Republicans’ efforts to budget carefully and cautiously could be undone by senators hoping to earmark money for pet projects.

A Democratic amendment to help school districts pay for teacher raises, which Republican Gov. Mike Parson asked lawmakers to make earlier this year, has failed.

The proposal would have set aside $100 million to subsidize teacher salary increases, with the state meeting 70% of the costs and local school districts responsible for the remaining 30%.

The budget would also prevent schools, colleges and other organizations that accept public funding from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a recent coronavirus test to access paid events.

The provision has drawn bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who argued it could penalize universities that host concerts by musicians who require attendees to be vaccinated.

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