- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Plans to use bonds to pay for repairs to the Missouri Capitol, public universities and other state-owned buildings are moving forward in the House, but possible cuts to park spending threaten to derail the proposals as lawmakers near their budgetary deadline.

The measures endorsed this past week by a House budget committee include about $160 million in bonds for repairs and improvements at public colleges and universities, and more than $140 million in bonds for state building repairs. Millions in additional funds also would need to be re-authorized to continue payments on projects that have not yet been completed.

The bills now head to the full House for review. Both the House and Senate must approve the spending bills by a constitutionally-mandated deadline of May 8, a tight time frame to reach consensus on proposals that could meet criticism in the Senate.

The proposed project list roughly mirrors a wish list approved in the Senate months ago, but lead House budget writer Republican Rep. Tom Flanigan of Carthage reallocated nearly $15 million in general revenue spending for parks projects to university construction and maintenance.

Gov. Jay Nixon’s budget director, Linda Luebbering, said the cuts would hurt planned and ongoing projects. It could also mean the state would break contracts that already have been awarded for construction and repair work.

Luebbering warned that not meeting promises to pay for those projects could hurt the state in any future bidding. The concern is further compounded, Luebbering said, because the House bill opts for a one-year spending plan on construction and maintenance projects instead of a typical two-year plan to accommodate lengthier projects.

Supporters say that gives lawmakers greater control over state spending, while Luebbering and others argue it would create uncertainty for bidders who must rely on the Legislature to approve project payments each year.

State Parks Director Bill Bryan testified in a House hearing Thursday that projects that could be on the chopping block include $1.2 million worth of construction at Roaring River State Park to renovate a Civilian Conservation Corps lodge and a new campground at Montauk State Park.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, the second-in-command of House budget drafting, cited concerns with a Department of Natural Resources plan to create a new park in Shannon County without prior legislative approval. The money stripped from the budget bill had not been planned for that park.

Democrats on the House committee decried the cut, and Republican Sen. Mike Parson, who sponsored the resolution listing the Senate spending priorities, said Friday that he planned to push to maintain money for those parks projects.

“Parks brings a lot of income to the state of Missouri, it’s one of our natural resources,” Parson said. “I’m going to do what I can to support that.”

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Budget bills are HBs 17-19.

Online:

House: https://www.house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://www.twitter.com/esballentine


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