Missouri lawmakers agree to fund I-70 expansion across entire state
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
State senators and representatives came to an agreement on how to fund the Interstate 70 expansion proposed by the governor and several other highway projects.
In a Wednesday evening legislative conference, lawmakers put $2.8 billion toward expanding Interstate 70 across the state. This is more than the House and governor's recommendations, which was just enough to add an extra lane in Columbia and the suburban areas of St. Louis and Kansas City.
Lawmakers also agree to add $5 million for an environmental study on Highway 63 from Cabool to Houston and $20 million for an environmental study on the Interstate 44 corridor. These studies are in anticipation of possible future projects.
Republican Sen. Caleb Rowden, of Columbia, said he wanted to see the expansion fully funded.
"My assumption is if we only did half the project this year, we'd never do the other half, and so I just think it I think we stretch a little bit, get it done, get that money accounted for and get the thing done, so hopefully that's where we end up," Rowden said.
During the legislative conference, lawmakers also removed an amendment that targeted DEI language. Appropriations Chair Sen. Lincoln Hough said they're going with the Senate's position of, "Nope."
Previously, Rep. Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs) tried to put an amendment on every department's budget preventing any state money from being spent on diversity initiatives. This sparked debate in the House of Representatives, where Democrats said he was adding policy to the budget and preventing education on topics such as slavery, Indian reservations and historic elections.
The legislative conference to negotiate the state budget was pushed back four times as the deadline to agree on state spending creeps closer.
The Missouri legislature must pass a budget by 6 p.m. Friday. Before that happens, the Senate and House of Representatives must come to a compromise on the budget in a process called a conference committee. However, Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Sen. Lincoln Hough's office said the bills are not ready for conference yet.
Hough (R-Springfield) and other budget leaders were in meetings Wednesday morning preparing for the conference.
The start of the conference committee was pushed back three times. Originally scheduled for Tuesday at 3:10 p.m., then for 8 a.m. Wednesday, then 4 p.m., then again for 6 p.m. Wednesday. The committee finally convened at 6:40 p.m.
The rescheduling happened just minutes before the conference was scheduled to start; representatives from state departments were already sitting in the conference room waiting to hear how their budgets may change.
There are several budget bills not included in this conference. Several construction bills have yet to be passed by the Senate. There are fewer than 48 hours left to fully pass these bills, under the constitutional deadline.