Missouri House, Senate pass 2021 budget

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JEFFERSON CITY- State lawmakers in both the Missouri House and Senate voted to pass the 2021 budget Friday afternoon. 

Lawmakers faced a constitutional deadline of 6 p.m. Friday to pass the $34.7 billion budget. This budget has been especially challenging as the state’s economy has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers have worked to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from their initial budget proposal.

The new budget year begins July 1.

The House version of the budget cut about $700 million, including about $37 million from higher education. But Senators decided to build in federal money that the state has not yet been promised. They restored the higher education cuts and put $10 million toward the NextGen project.

"We don't know exactly how it's going to play out," Rep. Sara Walsh, R-Ashland, said. "But this is incredible effort, this is so important for this NextGen project."

Without additional federal money, higher education would get 10% less in state funding during the next fiscal year. 

The budget also contains $12 million for the expansion of broadband internet.

"Access to online has never been more critical than it is right now, right here in this moment and will continue to be moving forward," Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said. "So hopefully, this is going to be used for these funds, will be able to continue to make progress on broadband expansion." 

While discussing the budgets for the Missouri Department of Agriculture and Missouri Department of Conservation, Rep. Deb Lavender, D-Kirkwood, and Rep. Hannah Kelley, R-Mountain Grove, had a tense exchange.

Lavender blasted the Senate for removing $100,000 from the budget for Share the Harvest and feeding hungry women and children. She called the Senate's decision "shameful." Both lawmakers spoke over one another in an effort to "set the record straight."

The budget also includes $20 million for meat processing facilities that employ less than 200 employees.

State lawmakers also discussed funding in the budget to pay back money it owes counties that hold inmates before they go to state prisons. The budget has $8 million in funding for it but, the state still owes $22 million to county jails.