Missouri House passes $46 billion budget that bars funding for diversity and inclusion efforts
Instead of speaking on the billions of dollars within the Missouri budget, House Democrats repeatedly spoke out against language added to each bill that prohibits spending on anything associated with diversity, equity and inclusion. That language is expected to be stripped out in the Senate.
A $45.6 billion budget is on its way to the Missouri Senate after the House passed it Thursday.
It contains around $10 billion in K-12 spending, including fully funding school transportation, with some money set aside for Pre-K. The House also continued to fund Medicaid expansion and allocated money for child care subsidies.
However, debate Thursday was not about the billions of dollars allocated to Missouri’s schools, transportation and health care.
Instead, time after time, Democrats stood up to speak against added language from Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, that bars any state funding to go toward “staffing, vendors, consultants, or programs associated with diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“We have only made things worse in the state of Missouri with these racist tactics, these racist views. And I am so ashamed. This is not about the budget,” said Rep. Marlene Terry, D-St. Louis County, chair of Missouri Legislative Black Caucus.
Speaking during the beginning of debate Thursday, Richey defended the language.
“This is an effort to protect Missourians and to protect state employees from being treated with racist policies. That's exactly what we are doing. Stay in the fight,” Richey said.
Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, attempted to send the bill funding K-12 education back to committee to strip the language.
“The gentleman would like for you to believe that this language that's in this bill will not affect the budget. It will not affect contracts. It will not affect our bottom line. But the gentleman is lying to you,” Bosley said.
Though that language remained in the House bill, it is unlikely to make it through the Senate, where Appropriations Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said he intends to remove it.
“I think it's problematic for a number of reasons,” Hough said.
The removal of that language is just one change the Senate is likely to make.
Another is the current absence of nearly $900 million to go toward expanding Interstate 70 in the St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City areas. House Budget Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, repeated his intention on Thursday to address that in a later budget bill as opposed to the transportation bill.
“We are moving that conversation to House Bill 19, which we will take up next week to continue to have that conversation about not only I-70, but all of the other, what we would probably call, unfunded needs across the state,” Smith said.
However, Hough says he plans to put that money back in, as well as go beyond what Gov. Mike Parson asked for.
“I've been meeting with stakeholders, senators, both on and off our committee over here, trying to package that in a way that we can actually do the whole project [while] simultaneously doing the environmental study work on I-44, such that if we’re in an economic position in a few years, we can take the equipment, take the contractors, move on to I-44 after they're done with 70,” Hough said.
One amendment that House Democrats failed to attach to a budget was Rep. Deb Lavender’s proposal of $308 million in base pay increases for home care workers who help people with disabilities. That amendment fell just a few votes short of passing on the House floor.
Hough said that’s something he would support.
“We've got to make sure that the salaries for those individuals are competitive so that the individuals we're trying to serve can get the care that they need,” Hough said.
Overall, the House’s version of the budget is $2 billion less than Parson suggested. As to how much spending the Senate will propose, Hough said he doesn’t believe Missourians pay taxes so lawmakers can look at that money in the bank.
“The analogy that I'll use is, I feel like this would be bragging about how much money you have in your savings account while your roof is leaking and your furniture and your living room is getting destroyed. We need to fix the infrastructure in this state and make Missouri as competitive as we can by investing in those kinds of things,” Hough said.
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