The General Assembly’s attention was focused on the budget this week as we worked toward a 6 p.m. Friday deadline to finish work on appropriations bills. The $35 billion budget approved this week fully funds the foundation formula for K-12 education and increases spending on Missouri’s public colleges and universities. Despite the Legislature’s decision to not fund Medicaid expansion, spending on health care programs continues to dominate the budget. Well over 40 percent of state resources fund just three agencies of government: the departments of Social Services, Mental Health and Health and Senior Services.
As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee I have been heavily involved in reviewing spending requests from each department of state government. Throughout the course of the session, the committee considered every line item in the budget. It’s a long, complex process but one that allows us to continually reevaluate government programs and their cost to taxpayers. As we worked through the budget, I looked for places where the budget could be trimmed. I paid particular attention to staffing levels at the various state agencies to ensure that unfilled, yet still-funded positions weren’t being used to pad budgets.
Although I pride myself on bringing an accountant’s eye to the numbers, I’m also conscious of needs in the communities I represent. Whenever possible, I look for opportunities to bring taxpayer dollars back home to the 21st Senatorial District. I’m happy to report a number of local programs and facilities receive funding in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
Guests at the historic J. Huston Tavern restaurant at Arrow Rock State Historic Site will benefit from ADA-compliant restrooms paid for through an $83,000 line item in House Bill 19, the state’s capital improvement budget. Originally built in 1834, and now operated by the Friends of Arrow Rock organization, the facility is believed to be the oldest continually serving restaurant west of the Mississippi River. Also included in the capital improvements budget is funding to extend a recreational trail from Knob Noster State Park to Whiteman Air Force Base. Currently 5.9-miles long, the Spirit Trail will eventually stretch 12 miles from the park to the base, thanks to a $4 million appropriation in next year’s budget. Whiteman Air Force Base, Johnson County and the communities of Knob Noster and Warrensburg all identified completion of the trail through the state park as a high priority, and I was happy to champion the project through the appropriations process.
Repeating a success from last year – but, I hope with a different result this time – I was able to secure a $1 million appropriation for Warrensburg’s Skyhaven Airport. The money is just part of a larger public-private initiative to fund a 20-year renovation effort at the airport, which is home to the University of Central Missouri’s aviation careers program. A similar appropriation was stripped out of last year’s budget by a gubernatorial veto. It’s my hope the money will stay in the budget this year. Another UCM facility, the W.C. Morris Science Center, is earmarked to receive $5 million in House Bill 19. The appropriation reflects the state’s commitment to STEM education on the Warrensburg campus.
House Bill 10, which funds the departments of Mental Health and Health and Senior Services, includes an additional $250,000 for Recovery Health Services this year. Recovery Lighthouse of Warrensburg is one facility that receives funding through this statewide program for individuals overcoming substance abuse. I also included an amendment to House Bill 11 for a $50,000 line item to support the Refuge on Ming homeless shelter in Warrensburg. The expenditure is a drop in the bucket compared to the massive $10.7 billion budget for Department of Social Services, but the money will mean a lot to this facility that benefits less-fortunate members of our community.
Although not exclusive to specific facilities or programs in the 21st District, other budget appropriations will benefit our area. The Main Street Connection program, a community development initiative that’s widely utilized in the district, receives $200,000 in House Bill 7, the budget for the Department of Economic Development. House Bill 8, the budget for the Department of Public Safety, includes an additional $7 million for Missouri’s veteran’s homes and cemeteries. The Missouri Veterans Commission operates veteran’s homes in Cameron and Warrensburg and a veterans cemetery in Higginsville. The Corrections Department budget, House Bill 9, continues the recruitment pay program for corrections officers, and includes increased funding to reimburse county jails for housing state prisoners.
As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at 573-751-4302. You may also email me at email@example.com.