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UPDATE: Missouri officials move to add construction money to state budget

Thursday, May 2, 2013 | 2:54 p.m. CDT; updated 8:08 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 2, 2013

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials moved forward Thursday with efforts to add funding for improvements to the state mental hospital, Capitol and park system.

The efforts coincided with a favorable financial report released by Gov. Jay Nixon's administration Thursday that showed state revenues through April were 11.2 percent higher than at this point last year.

Buoyed by the news, Nixon announced he directed his budget director to develop an amendment for next year's proposed budget that would allow $86 million for capital improvements if current trends continue. On the same day, the House advanced legislation that includes $121 million for construction work in the 2014 budget that takes effect July 1. Nixon's administration said the House's proposal is for one-time purposes and is consistent with the governor's proposal.

Nixon's amendment included $13 million for the planning and design of a new facility at the Fulton State Hospital, $28 million for structural repairs to the state Capitol and $45 million for improvements to state parks. The House legislation would coincide with Nixon's plan for the Fulton hospital while providing $20 million for state parks, $38 million to construct a new office building potentially at an old prison site in Jefferson City and $50 million for new windows and structural repairs at the Capitol.

"As we continue to monitor these positive trends, strategic investment in key assets, such as our state parks, is a fiscally prudent approach to moving our state forward," Nixon said.

House Speaker Tim Jones said increased state revenues allow lawmakers to consider spending for projects that have not been completed during recent tight budgets.

"These will be one-time expenditures for things that everyone wants to accomplish," said Jones, R- Eureka.

Earlier this week, Republican legislative leaders had been at odds over what to do with higher-than-expected revenues.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, who before Thursday's report had said he wanted to spend more than $200 million to replace the aging Fulton State Hospital, said the capital improvement plan could go even further.

"There is clearly more money than the governor is acknowledging in his amendment," said Schaefer, R-Columbia.

Lawmakers have until May 10 to approve next year's budget. Increased funding might shorten the state's lists of needed construction repairs and projects, but the House also gave initial approval to a $1.2 billion bonding initiative to pay for capital improvements Thursday.

The bonding proposal could fund projects on college campuses, state parks, a new facility at Fulton State Hospital and other capital improvement projects. It also would create a fund from which public K-12 schools could borrow for capital needs and money also could be used for ports and rural water projects.

Jones, who is sponsoring the bonding package, said it would address major state needs. However, he said time is running short before the legislature's mandatory adjournment and that the discussion likely will continue into next year. He said the potential for more money in next year's budget for construction needs could allow the amount of a bonding initiative to be reduced.

The revenue report released Thursday by the Office of Administration shows that Missouri's net general revenue totaled $6.67 billion from July through April, compared to $5.99 billion during the same period last year.

State budget officials also announced that $375 million borrowed earlier this year from a state budget reserve fund was repaid. The money was used for cash flow purposes and was required to be repaid by May 15.

In addition, the governor announced Thursday that he had released $29.6 million in the current year's budget that he had blocked when it took effect last summer. The bulk of that goes to facilities maintenance and repair, with other initiatives to receive funding including math and science tutoring, an urban teaching program, the scholars and fine arts academies, early grade literacy and the eating disorder council.


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