Passing the Budget
After many hours of debate, fiery discussion and provoking speeches, the Senate passed a state budget this week. The Senate received the bills later than usual, but Missouri’s upper chamber managed to pass the budget with 24 hours to spare – this is something to take note of as the Senate had just 17 legislative days to work to pass Fiscal Year 2018’s $27.8 billion budget.
Missouri lawmakers approved a budget plan Thursday that cuts spending on public colleges and universities while providing enough basic aid to K-12 schools to meet funding goals called for under state law. The proposal would increase basic aid for public elementary and secondary schools by roughly $48 million to a total of nearly $3.4 billion and hit funding goals outlined in the state law, also known as the Foundation Formula, for the first time since Fiscal Year 2009. Despite the cuts to higher education an additional $4 million was allocated for Bright Flight Scholarships, ensuring that students who have proven themselves academically have funds available to help them realize their dream to attend college. In addition, $6 million was added to the budget for grants to improve broadband access for rural schools. This will help these schools access a federal match program that will allow for more than $45 million to be spent on infrastructure for high-speed internet for rural Missouri schools.
The Department of Agriculture’s $43.9 million budget includes a $700,000 increase in funding to the Dairy Industry’s Revitalization Program and $4.5 million which, will fully fund the remaining bio-diesel incentive payments. Biodiesel, is a soybean-based product for which the state’s incentive program ended 10 years ago. Yet, Missouri still owes $4.5 million to farmers and biodiesel plant operators, the 2018 budget fully funds the remaining payments.
I am proud to say that in the Missouri Department of Transportation’s $2.28 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018, the General Assembly was able to pass a clause that would block the use of Missouri taxpayer’s money for toll roads. With the current state of roads and bridges in Missouri, we must make sure vital repairs are addressed and new funding can be established, but toll roads are specifically unfair to the constituents of the 10th District and I will remain a steadfast opponent to tolling Interstate 70.
With flooding throughout parts of the 10th District, many roads remain blocked by high water or water related damage. If you must travel, be aware of the flood susceptible areas that might still contain water, and be cautious when driving or walking in flooded areas. For information on flooded or closed roads, visit www.modot.org/flooding/. MODOT also has a 24-hour call line that contains information on road conditions – 1-888-275-6636 or outside of Missouri (573) 751-2551 as well as an interactive Traveler’s Map.
It is an honor to be your State Senator and my door is always open to your concerns, questions or comments. Please feel free to contact me at (573) 751-2757 or visit my web page at www.senate.mo.gov/riddle.