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Missouri House OKs Nixon’s plan for mental hospital, Capitol

Updated: 2013-05-02T19:37:17Z

The Associated Press

— The Missouri House has adopted Gov. Jay Nixon's plan to increase funding for the state mental hospital, the Capitol and the park system.

Nixon proposed the changes Thursday citing increases in state revenue above projections. Just hours after Nixon announced his $86 million plan the House gave first-round approval to a $121 million funding package.

The House voted 131-26 to appropriate money for the Fulton State Hospital, state parks improvements and money to make repairs in the state Capitol building.

The vote came after Nixon's budget office announced that state revenues through April are up 11.2 percent for fiscal year.

The measure needs one more vote before moving to the Senate. The bill must be passed by May 10.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon proposed an additional $86 million for the state mental hospital, Capitol and park system on Thursday while citing an improving financial picture.

The governor's plan includes $13 million for the planning and design of a new facility at the Fulton State Hospital, $28 million for structural repairs to the state Capitol and $45 million for improvements to state parks. Nixon said he directed his budget director to develop an amendment for next year's proposed budget that would allow for funding if current trends continue.

The announcement coincided with his administration reporting Thursday that state revenues through April were 11.2 percent higher during the current fiscal year.

“As we continue to monitor these positive trends, strategic investment in key assets, such as our state parks, is a fiscally prudent approach to moving our state forward,” Nixon said.

The projects named by Nixon mirror those that have been mentioned in a possible state bonding package. The governor endorsed the idea of a bonding package in January, and proposals are pending in both the House and Senate to issue bonds to pay for various capital improvement needs. However, neither chamber has debated a bonding proposal before the full membership.

An improving state budget picture led to disagreement earlier this week between Missouri Republican legislative leaders over whether to save or spend the apparent excess of money.

House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, said that he prefers to save the money as a cushion for next year's budget while waiting to see if the economy improves. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said he anticipates the state will end up with $400 million more than was projected and that he wants to spend more than $200 million to replace the aging Fulton State Hospital.

Schaefer said Thursday that Nixon's budget proposal is movement in the right direction.

“There is clearly more money than the governor is acknowledging in his amendment,” Schaefer said.

Lawmakers have until the end of next week to approve a state budget for the 2014 fiscal year that starts July 1.

Figures from the state Office of Administration released Thursday show Missouri's net general revenue totaled $6.67 billion from July through April, compared to $5.99 billion during the same period last year. Collections from individual income taxes were up 9.8 percent compared with last year. State sales and use taxes were up 2 percent, and corporate income taxes were up 2.5 percent.

Officials said $375 million that was borrowed earlier this year from a state budget reserve fund was repaid. The money was used for cash flow purposes and was required to be repaid by May 15.

“We had a really good all-around month,” Nixon budget director Linda Luebbering said.

In addition, the governor announced Thursday that he had released $29.6 million in the current year's budget that he blocked when it took effect last summer. The bulk of that goes to facilities maintenance and repair, with others receiving funding including math and science tutoring, an urban teaching program, the scholars and fine arts academies, early grade literacy and the eating disorder council.

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