House rejects $336 million in stimulus funds for state projects

Friday, May 1, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House of Representatives rejected a bill Thursday that would fund a variety of construction and maintenance projects in the state using $336 million in federal stimulus funds.

Those projects include:

  • $111.7 million for a statewide communications upgrade for law enforcement;
  • $31.2 million for planning, design, renovation and construction of a new building for Columbia's Ellis Fischel Cancer Center;
  • $13 million for University of Missouri Hospitals and Clinics; and
  • $12 million for an expanded transit system in St. Louis and Kansas City, among several other capital improvement projects.

Democrats opposing the bill charged that it was filled with pork projects that unnecessarily spent federal funds.

"We are looking at an economic time where we are stagnated, and we are going to face an eight percent shortfall in the next budget cycle," said Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City. "So here we have (House Bill) 22, with ... pork projects going to different districts when we need to be saving this money for our services that we provide the state of Missouri."

Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, who sponsored the bill, said all of the capital projects would benefit Missouri citizens. He asked the bill's opponents to clarify which expenses could be considered pork.

"Is it in the debt relief? Is it in Ellis Fischel?" he said. "I'm curious which of those is considered pork."

The cancer center was originally to be funded by the sale of assets from the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority. However, funding was suspended in January because of insufficient capital within the loan agency.

On Monday, funding for Ellis Fischel was stripped from an appropriations bill after Democrats in the House Rules Committee walked out of the committee hearing. Funding for the center was restored Wednesday on the House floor only to have the entire bill rejected Thursday.

Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, R-Jackson County, said some legislators voiced concern that the bill started out funding big statewide projects that were then carved into smaller projects.

"The bill clearly needs some work," Pratt said in a news conference after the House adjourned.

Pratt said he may reconsider the bill if Icet asks, which would allow the bill to be debated once again on the House floor.

If the House chooses to reconsider a bill, they must do so by the middle of next week.


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