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Missouri lawmakers fail to override Parson’s budget vetoes despite push from House Republicans

The GOP-controlled Missouri House on Wednesday voted to restore 14 items vetoed from the state budget by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

But, after a short debate, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to take up the overrides and quickly adjourned, leaving Parson’s $555.3 million in cuts intact.

Wednesday’s constitutionally-mandated veto session offered Missouri lawmakers a chance to make a case that their colleagues should override Parson, who slashed 201 items from the state budget approved by lawmakers last session. The state budget took effect in July.

While lawmakers on Wednesday appeared incensed by some of Parson’s vetoes, it’s extremely rare for a GOP-controlled legislature to override a Republican governor. A successful override would have required a two-thirds majority vote from both chambers of the General Assembly.

House lawmakers still jumped at the opportunity, voting to restore several items, including $28 million for improvements to Interstate-44, pay raises for Missouri Highway Patrol employees and police who work at the Capitol, $13 million for a police center in St. Louis and $1.4 million for Missouri Task Force 1, a search and rescue team managed by the Boone County Fire Protection District in Columbia.

Budget items related to public safety funding and money for police largely dominated the debate in the House. House Budget Chair Cody Smith, a Carthage Republican who is running for state treasurer, made nine motions to restore 20% pay raises for Highway Patrol workers, saying that troopers were being recruited away from the agency or taking early retirements.

“We stand by our law enforcement officers, and we know that with the proper training, we are giving our men and women in law enforcement the right tools to protect and serve all of the citizens in our state,” House Speaker Dean Plocher, a St. Louis Republican, said in a statement Wednesday.

“We respect the Governor and his veto decisions, but we believe these items are necessary for the good of the state, and can have a long-lasting, positive impact.”

Democrats attempted to override additional measures but all of those failed in the House except for one, sought by State Rep. LaKeySha Bosley from St. Louis. Bosley argued that $13 million for a law enforcement center in St. Louis was necessary and would save lives.

Some House Democrats criticized Republicans for pushing pay raises for the Highway Patrol and police officers but not other state employees, such as mental health workers. State Rep. Deb Lavender, a Manchester Democrat, unsuccessfully attempted to override Parson’s veto of $2.2 million for a long-term care ombudsman program to help seniors and nursing homes.

But all of the House’s overrides proved meaningless once the Senate gaveled in. State Sen. Lincoln Hough, who chairs the Senate’s budget committee, said on the floor that he did not plan to try to override any of the Republican governor’s vetoes, saying he did not know whether there would be enough votes.

“I don’t really like to come out here and do things when I don’t know what the outcome is going to be,” he said. “There’s a lot of investments we made all around the state in everyone’s districts that we can be proud of. And, I don’t know, this kind of seems like an exercise in futility if you asked me.”

The Senate also did not attempt to override Parson’s veto of a sweeping public safety bill that would have allowed more people who were wrongfully convicted to receive compensation from the state. The legislation was the only non-budget bill that Parson vetoed this year.

Wednesday’s action in the Senate did offer a chance for two Republican candidates for governor to briefly face off before the 2024 election. During the debate, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, who led the Senate on Wednesday, called on state Sen. Bill Eigel, a Weldon Spring Republican, who criticized some of Parson’s cuts, including money intended to provide better drinking water in St. Charles.

Shortly after Eigel took the floor to criticize other items in what he described as a budget that “wastes more money than we’ve ever seen in this state,” Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin made a motion for the Senate to adjourn, leaving the Republican governor’s budget vetoes in place.

The roughly $51 billion state budget that Parson signed in June included a massive $2.8 billion expansion of Interstate-70 as well as other major items sought by lawmakers including $3.6 billion in state aid to K-12 schools, $78 million to boost rates for child care providers and $50 million for safety improvements at railroad crossings.

Parson spokesperson Johnathan Shiflett, in a statement Wednesday, downplayed the House override attempts, saying the Republican governor “did not witness anything today that was not expected.”

“It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly agreed with Governor Parson’s call for fiscal responsibility when he issued his vetoes,” he said.