JEFFERSON CITY — One of Gov. Mike Parson’s top priorities for the 2019 legislative session cleared a major checkpoint Monday afternoon when the Missouri Senate reached an agreement to fund repairs to 215 bridges across the state.
The Senate approved SCR 14, which authorizes the state to enter a $301 million bond agreement that would be paid over seven years.
The vote comes after months of discussion over how to revamp Missouri’s bridges, 60 percent of which are past their original lifespans. In January, Parson proposed a similar $351 million bond plan that would have been paid out over 15 years instead.
Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, sponsored the bill, which was ultimately approved by a 26-7 vote. He said that while nobody got everything they wanted, lowering the bonds’ interest cost from Parson’s original proposal was key to getting other legislators on board.
Under the plan, $50 million of general revenue would be budgeted the first year to kick-start the program, and for the seven years of the bonding, $46 million would be needed each year to pay the debt.
“Everybody had a little bit of something they didn’t like with this bill,” Schatz said.
The senator said his biggest concern was securing federal match funding for the Missouri River Bridge in Rocheport. The state submitted a federal Infrastructure Rebuilding America grant application March 4.
In a statement released after the Senate vote, Parson said he was thrilled to see a compromise emerge from the various proposals.
“Today’s strong bipartisan vote is a result of focused efforts by the legislature as we work together on an infrastructure plan to move Missouri forward,” the governor said.
Legislators have been discussing what to do about Missouri’s infrastructure needs throughout the session. The House previously approved a budget that had $100 million earmarked from general revenue to fund repairs of Missouri’s roads and bridges.
The bill will now move to the House. Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said he has been collaborating with House members throughout the process.
“The House may not pass it as is, but they feel that it’s in a place where they can pick it up and get it to a consensus,” Rowden said.
Though passage of the bill in both chambers would mark a breakthrough for Missouri infrastructure funding, Schatz said more could be done. In recent years, the Missouri Department of Transportation has estimated the costs of all high-priority needs for the state’s infrastructure to come in at $825 million, according to previous Missourian reporting.
“At some point, we’re really going to have to address long term what we’re going to do for transportation funding solutions,” Schatz said. “This is just a part of the conversation.”
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, email@example.com.