By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

Missouri lawmakers approved a nearly $35 billion state budget
by the constitutional deadline.

Whether they are forced to return for a special session to
address further budget changes remains to be seen.

Senate Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. Dan Hegeman of
Cosby, says the fact that legislators returned to the Capitol to re-write the
state budget might lessen the need to revisit the budget.

“I think the fact that we did get a budget passed within our
constitutionally-mandated timeframe, which was May 8th this year, I
think that gives a lot of room for the governor to move forward in the Fiscal
Year ’21 budget,” Hegeman tells St. Joseph Post.

Lawmakers had to re-construct the state budget drafted earlier
in the session and cut $700 million from it as COVID-19 restrictions
drastically reduced state revenue. Hegeman says if Governor Mike Parson
believes lawmakers need to re-think state spending, he could call them back into
special session in September, during the annual veto session.

Agreeing is state Rep. Brenda Shields of St. Joseph, a member
of the House Budget Committee, who expects to be returning to the Capitol and
to budget work later this year.

“I think we’ll have to go back maybe during the month of September
and do some supplemental budgets to more accurately reflect what’s happening in
the state of Missouri,” Shields tells St. Joseph Post.

The Missouri General Assembly must return in September for its
annual veto session, the session required to consider whether to overturn any
vetoes issued by Gov. Mike Parson.

Shields points out that while COVID-19 restrictions devastated
the state economy and drastically cut state revenue, lawmakers still found a
way to add $12 million to expand rural broadband.

“I think through this pandemic we’ve learned that broadband is
not just for watching Netflix,” Shields says, adding some legislators didn’t
understand the difficulties 1.2 million Missourians face, because they lack
access to the Internet.

Shields says she’s disappointed legislators didn’t approve
requiring state sales tax to be collected on Internet sales. She says the
coronavirus pandemic disclosed how valuable that would be for a state that
needs revenue.