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Lawmakers leave for spring break

March 21, 2002
By: Robert Sandler
State Capital Bureau

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JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri lawmakers are taking next week off for their annual spring break, while most of this session's major issues have not even reached the full House or Senate.

Among the issues still awaiting a full legislative debate are a tax increase for transportation, economic stimulus and stadiums, the governor's plan for education reform and funding the state's public schools.

But the biggest issue is the budget. Lawmakers can't even come to a consensus on how much revenue the state will take in.

The governor's proposed budget requires tapping the state's rainy day fund to cover gaps in revenue. Authorizing use of the fund requires a two-thirds vote from both the House and Senate. Many lawmakers have said getting that supermajority will be a difficult proposition.

Missouri's budget must first pass the House before it goes to the Senate. In most years, this happens before the spring recess. But this session, the House is not expected to begin floor debate until the week after spring break. That would be among the latest times the House has ever passed the budget.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have criticized House Speaker Jim Kreider, D-Nixa, for delaying the budget, but Kreider claims the delay is not unreasonable given the extent of the problems.

Many lawmakers have said they expect the legislature will not have passed the budget by the May 10 deadline, and that the governor will have to call a special session to finish it.

Among the other major issues this year, Kreider's House Democratic Caucus is pushing for full funding of the state's education formula, but is having trouble finding the money to do so.

Both the House and Senate are working on bills that would allow a tax increase for transportation, pending a vote of the people. Although no action has been taken on the matter in either chamber in several weeks, both chambers' leaders insist the matter will come up for a full vote.

The funding of stadiums and other public works projects around the state is proving to be one of the session's most contentious issues. Lawmakers from both parties say they are determined to bring it up for a vote, but the final outcome will be very close.

Lawmakers will return from spring vacation the week of April 1.