JEFFERSON CITY — More than $300 million in federal stimulus funding was reconsidered and approved Monday in the Missouri House.
The bill would provide $336 million in funding for a variety of construction and maintenance projects, including a new building for Columbia's Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, renovations to MU hospitals and clinics, a statewide communications upgrade for law enforcement and an expanded transit system in St. Louis.
It passed by a vote of 117-42, and all of Columbia's representatives voted in favor of it. The bill next moves to the Senate.
The debate centered mostly on the question of fiscal policy and whether the projects qualify as "pork-barrel" spending.
The representatives from Columbia and Mexico, Mo., worked together to convince members of both parties that the projects involved were not pork, said Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia.
"The people who think they know it all told (Republican Rep. Steve) Hobbs and me that we could never, ever, ever get it done," Kelly said.
Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, who sponsored the bill, and Kelly also argued during debate that the projects weren't pork.
"If you could just give me one example of a pork project is all I'm asking because there are about 13 pages of various programs in here. So if you could just give me one example is all I would ask," Icet said to Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence.
Kuessner responded that all representatives should have been given the opportunity to submit a project from their district and those projects would have been considered on their merits by a group of individuals.
Icet argued the House serves as that group of individuals who judge whether projects are considered.
Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Jackson County, said he thinks using the stimulus money for new projects and upgrades is an unwise fiscal move for the state.
"I don't think the spending for (House bill) 22 is fiscally responsible," Holsman said. "I think the proper way is to take that money, to not do a billion-dollar tax cut — imaginary or not — and to take that money and to put the money toward the commitments we have for 2012."
He also said the money should be used for stabilization and in the event of budget shortfalls.
Another criticism pointed out the differences in funding given to Kansas City and St. Louis.
"There is nothing in this bill for Kansas City," Holsman said. "Almost 10 percent of the entire population of the state, and we got nothing."
Kelly, a proponent for the bill, said it was a valid criticism and more could have been done for Kansas City. He also said the Kansas City senators might change that.