Dollars for the District
There are barely three weeks remaining in the 2021 legislative session, and less than two weeks before work on the state budget must be complete. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have been heavily involved in crafting our version of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. We’ve held hearings throughout the session to consider department spending requests, but the past week has been a whirlwind. We met every day this week – sometimes twice a day – to review budget bills drafted by the House of Representatives. This process, called “mark-up,” is the Senate’s opportunity to advocate for our priorities and influence the state’s spending plan. Nothing is set in stone yet, and both chambers will eventually need to agree to the same budget numbers, but now is the time for the Senate to weigh in. During the mark-up process, I’ve successfully proposed a number of additional appropriations that benefit residents of the 16th Senatorial District:
Missouri Military Community Reinvestment Program: The House of Representatives eliminated funding for this grant program that assists Missouri’s communities in supporting and sustaining military installations in their areas. By statute, the program is capped at $300,000, but the governor budgeted $110,000, renewing last year’s spending authority. The Senate Appropriations Committee honored my request to fully fund these grants at the $300,000 maximum level.
Wood Energy Tax Credit: I was able to restore $1.5 million in funding for the Wood Energy Tax Credit in the Senate version of the Department of Natural Resources budget. This program helps sawmills and other wood product processors dispose of sawdust and other waste materials. The program benefits the environment and fuels economic development, as charcoal producers recycle materials that would not be economically viable to ship without the tax credit. Nearly 50% of the nation’s charcoal is produced in south-central Missouri, and the industry is a major employer in the region.
Meat Processing: A $20 million program to assist meat processing facilities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that I had added to the budget last year has been renewed in the Senate budget. This program is funded through the federal CARES Act.
Public Safety: The Senate budget restores $3.5 million of funding to the Department of Public Safety that was cut by the House. As chairman of the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, I believe it is my responsibility to advocate for the programs that keep our communities safe. My recommendation, which mirrors the governor’s request, ensures adequate resources for a number of public safety grants, including the Project Safe Neighborhoods program.
Medication-Assisted Treatment: Pilot programs at several Missouri prison facilities have proven the value of medication assisted treatments for substance abuse disorders among incarcerated offenders. At my request, the Senate’s budget for the Department of Corrections includes $1.5 million to expand these programs to correctional facilities statewide.
Osage Beach Center for Cognitive Disorders: The committee approved my request for a one-time $500,000 appropriation in the Department of Mental Health’s budget. This money will help with staffing and facility needs at the in-patient adult psychiatric hospital. The facility provides mental health care to residents of a large portion of central Missouri, including Camden, Laclede and Pulaski counties.
Substance Abuse Treatment Centers: The committee included $1 million in the Department of Mental Health budget for federally qualified health centers that provide medication assisted treatment for substance use disorders. Eligible centers, including one in Rolla, provide behavioral health services to walk-in patients.
I truly value the opportunity to serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and I take my responsibility as a steward of hard-working Missourians’ tax dollars seriously. At the same time, I am always conscious of the need to support programs and facilities within the 16th Senatorial District. If I believe the program has merit, not just to residents of my district, but to the state as a whole, I will always advocate for our fair share of the state’s budget to be spent right here at home. There’s a few more steps in the process, but I’m hopeful these programs that benefit the district will be included when the governor signs the budget.
It’s my honor to serve as your senator for the 16th District. If you have questions or need any assistance, please call my office at 573-751-5713 or log onto my webpage at https://www.senate.mo.gov/brown for more information.