By Ezra Bitterman

Missouri News Network

The state budget process took an important step Tuesday as the Senate Appropriations Committee released details of its version.

The committee’s proposed budget is about $53 billion — about $300 million over what Gov. Mike Parson recommended and $2.2 billion more than what the House passed.

The final numbers in the proposal, approved in committee meetings last week, came in higher than expected as Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, had estimated that the number would come out somewhere between the House and governor.

The elevated spending proposal is destined for a fight on multiple fronts. In the Senate, the hard right Freedom Caucus will likely push for big cuts as they criticize the quick ascension of state spending over the last few years. Freedom Caucus member Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, plans to fight each line item he disagrees with.

Hoskins was removed from the Appropriations Committee earlier in the session after a Freedom Caucus filibuster over the Senate leadership’s legislative priorities.

“When the budget does come up, I plan on going line by line and going through each budget bill,” Hoskins said. “These are questions I would have asked as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. But after I was kicked off that committee for advocating for conservative policies and voting against the FRA (Federal Reimbursement Amount for Medicaid) bill in committee, I’ve saved these questions for out on the Senate floor.”

In the House, Budget Chairman Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage, is intent on making cuts in the midst of a state revenue slowdown. State revenues are projected to flatten over the next few years because of tax cuts passed in recent years.

Whatever final version of spending emerges from the Senate is expected to be rejected by the House, with differences worked out in conference committee.

Among details in the Senate proposal are some benefits for the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. Two university agriculture projects were added by Hough:

$4.9 million was appropriated to renovate Eckles Hall and for the “Wine and Grape Institute Research Center and Viticulture Facility.”

A $10 million line was added to build a meat laboratory on MU’s campus.

An overall 3% increase in higher education spending compared to 2% in the House recommendation.

Hough kept in provisions to pay teachers a minimum salary of $40,000 and slight increases in state per pupil funding.

Money was added elsewhere in the budget to study U.S. 63 and make improvements to Interstate 44.

Much of the increase in spending came from differences in how much the state needs to spend to maintain ongoing healthcare programs. For example, almost $100 million was added in the Senate version for nursing home care versus what the House passed.

Hough also included language that would prevent any city that passes a sanctuary city policy that protects the identity of immigrants from getting state funding. This comes as Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas announced his intention on allowing immigrants to work legally in Kansas City. The city never went forward with the plan.