Representative Ed Lewis's Capitol Report

July 19, 2023

Update on Two Hot Topics for Randolph County this Summer

Two issues have risen to the top of my list of important issues for my constituents, especially those in Randolph County. First the proposed waste lagoon east of Highway 63 just north of Cairo and second the continued closure of Route 3 in southern Randolph County. The waste lagoon came to my attention back in February. A company that has several similar lagoons in southern Missouri, Denali, has leased land to have a liquid waste lagoon here in Randolph County. The company was using a permitting process through the Missouri Fertilizer Control Board to pursue this work. Several southeastern Representatives and I sent a letter to the FCB demanding they not renew the permits for Denali which were due June 30th. The FCB agreed that the company did not fit the scope of their authority and didn’t renew permits for Denali on June 30th. This will force Denali to go to the Missouri DNR and abide by all of the regulations for waste already in statute. Denali will have to file for permits with DNR and must not have the lagoon operational until said permits are issued, if they are. The process takes 60 days and there is a moratorium on the Randolph County project until the company is able to meet with DNR and file applications for a No-Discharge Permit.

Future Missouri Route 3 Project Update in Randolph County

Finally, some movement by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) on Mo Route 3. MODOT has been promising us progress on Missouri Route 3 between U.S. Route 24 and Route BB in Randolph County. "We have worked through the right of way process with the project currently on schedule to go out for bid in the August letting. Bids will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for action at the September 7 meeting," explained Northeast District Engineer Paula Gough.

The decision was made in 2021 to close the road when a significant slide caused unstable soil conditions in the area. HNTB has conducted the necessary environmental evaluation to determine a viable design solution. This included a review of soil conditions, slopes of the quarry pits on either side of Route 3, and the excavated caves below this area. The proposed work would involve shifting the road to the west by 15’-30’ and lowering it by 10’-15’ to ensure a favorable location.

Governor Signs off on Missouri’s Largest Operating Budget

One day before the start of the new fiscal year, Missouri’s Governor Mike Parson gave final approval to the largest operating budget in the history of the state. With the signing of the Fiscal Year 2024 state operating and capital improvement budget bills, Missouri has made significant investments that will majorly benefit the state’s infrastructure, workforce, education system, and public safety.

Through strategic investments, Missouri’s operating budget will continue to make great strides toward a better future for the state while focusing on building the economy and providing the services needed to give Missourians the life and opportunities they deserve.

Our legislature has crafted a state operating budget for the coming year that reaches far beyond the grasp of previous budgets, as we have worked to ensure the continued funding of invaluable services and programs while making the hard decisions on how to best serve the state while remaining fiscally sound. Our state revenues are up, businesses are continuing to grow, we’ve invested in long-term projects that will benefit the state for years to come, and we’ve managed to maintain a historic revenue surplus, all while cutting taxes and putting dollars back into the pockets of Missourians.

In the end, our state operating budget carries a price tag of approximately $51.8 billion, with $15.2 billion in general revenue, which includes funds for vital programs, including K-12 education, public safety, higher education, transportation, health and mental health, among many others. The state ended the 2023 fiscal year with roughly $7.8 billion in surplus funds, and general revenue beat expectations for the year at $13.2 billion.

The children of our state are always the top priority, and our budget goes a long way to show our commitment to making sure they get the education and services they need. This year, we’ve secured $3.6 billion in state aid to our K-12 public schools, while also fully funding school transportation costs with $233 million. We worked hard to give our invaluable educators a much-needed boost in their pocketbooks, as the budget includes $29 million to raise the minimum public school teacher salary to $38,000. Here is a breakdown of some of the items we’ve achieved to help provide the citizens of this state with the tools they need in workforce development and education:

$3.6 billion to again fully fund the K-12 Foundation Formula for the fifth year in a row;

$288.7 million for capital improvement projects at public higher education institutions;

$233 million to fully fund school transportation needs for the second year in a row;

$70.8 million core funding increase for state higher education institutions;

$60 million to invest in semiconductor production research, development, and skills training;

$38 million for the fourth year of MoExcels projects and employer-driven workforce training investments;

$32 million for the Career Ladder program to reward educators who go above and beyond normal duties;
Full funding for the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Program which increases baseline K-12 educator pay to $38,000 per year (participating schools will no longer have a grant match requirement); and

$3.5 million for Apprenticeship Missouri and Youth Apprenticeships.

Early childhood development was one of the key priorities for the State of Missouri this year, and the result is $78 million to increase the rates for childcare providers, along with $56 million for public and charter schools and $26 million for private child care providers to offer Pre-Kindergarten programs to students qualifying for free and reduced lunch.

The state’s infrastructure system is critical to the success and growth of our economy, and the state is taking steps to ensure that we are doing our part to maintain the roads and bridges so that transportation of goods and services in the heartland of our nation meet the needs of the future. To that end, Missouri has invested in infrastructure projects across the state, the largest of which is expanding Interstate 70 to six lanes. The FY24 budget bills include billions of dollars for critical infrastructure projects:

$2.8 billion to expand and rebuild I-70 across the state from Kansas City to St. Louis;

$379 million to boost road and bridge projects within the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program;

$248 million for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved communities; and

$60 million for safety improvements at railroad crossings.

In the FY24 budget, Governor Parson also approved several key items to improve safety and support communities:

$50 million for a second round of school safety grants;

$20 million for grant funding for first responders;

$13.1 million for targeted salary increases for the Missouri State Highway Patrol;

$11 million to upgrade Missouri State Highway Patrol equipment;

$1 million to continue the Missouri Blue Scholarship program;

The House and Senate have the option to override the Governor’s vetoes during the annual veto session, which is set to take place on September 13, 2023.