JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- After the Missouri House left money on the table for education, the Senate may be looking to spend some of it.
The House budget bills got a first glance on the Senate side Tuesday as the Senate Appropriations committee laid out Senate positions on a few budget items in a hearing. The committee deferred to House and governor positions on most budget items.
Among the proposals were: full funding for transportation, an increase of more than $200 million; a restoration and increase to the funding for the governor's teacher pay plan; an increase of $25 million for reading programs; and an increase of $3.5 million for COVID-19 prevention and safety education initiatives.
The teacher pay plan has been a widely debated initiative. Gov. Mike Parson offered more than $21 million in lottery funds to bring minimum teacher pay from $25,000 to $38,000 through a voluntary matching grant program in his proposed budget.
The House Budget Committee dispensed with that plan following worries of wage compression and negative outcomes for veteran teachers. The House then shifted that funding into a program known as Career Ladder, which offers teachers extra pay for extra duties, such as overseeing a club or organization. The program lost state funding back in 2010, but there have been legislative efforts to revive the program this year.
The Senate position would revive the governor's teacher pay plan without dispensing with Career Ladder, adding $31.79 million from general revenue to fund the teacher pay program.
"The governor put a little over $21 million in his recommendation. The House actually zeroed that out, and the Senate position will be adding $10 million to the governor's recommendation," Sen. Lincoln Hough explained in the hearing.
Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, wanted to see an increase of $3.5 million for a total of $5.5 million allocated to Career and Technical Education maintenance projects.
"Last year, we ran out of funds immediately, and this will pick up all the rest of the projects that are still on the desk," Eslinger said.
The appropriations committee continued discussing budget bills for other departments through much of the day prior to the Senate's appearance on the floor.