May 23, 2002

House Closes Session By Funding Increases for Public Education

In spite of a tense session heightened by an unprecedented state budget crisis, members of the Missouri House of Representatives emerged from the 2002 session with a $132 million increase for elementary and secondary education and legislation aimed at assisting working families in their daily lives.

"We've emerged from 'The Perfect Storm'" said Speaker of the House Jim Kreider, in reference to his earlier characterization of the 2002 legislative session. "We had to get out and push the boat off the rocks a couple of times, but we finally made it to shore."

"I think we can all leave here proud of the cooperation we had on a bipartisan and bicameral basis on a number of important issues," said House Minority Leader Catherine Hanaway. "Though we at times butted heads with members of the other party, and butted heads with members of the Senate, that's what we're supposed to do. We're supposed to come (to Jefferson City) and fight as hard as we can for the people we represent, and I think we were successful at doing that."

On the final day of the session, the General Assembly passed SB 1248, a bill that closed corporate tax loopholes and dedicated the funds to the state's public schools. Even in a tight budget years, Speaker Kreider said, it was necessary to maintain elementary and secondary education funding to provide for the future of the state.

"We can gnash our teeth and wring our hands over the recession and the decline of revenues, but if we neglect our children's education in the process, our state is doomed," said Speaker Kreider. "I wish we could have done more for the state's education system, but I am still proud that the House held firm to its position on increasing education funding. Had we not held our position, I suspect elementary and secondary education would have taken a hit in this entire process."

Speaker Kreider pointed to legislation on election reform, transportation funding, the state's rape statute, property tax procedures, and the state's health insurance initiative for children as high points of the session.

Minority Leader Hanaway agreed.

"I'm pleased that we can all go home and say we relieved property taxes, we improved education, we increased funding for education, and we are going to have freer and fairer elections," Hanaway said.

Over all, legislative leaders were happy with the results of the session. Talk of term limits and legislator apathy turned out to be mostly just rhetoric, as many term-limited legislators rolled up their sleeves and slugged out bills in conference committees in the session's final hours.

Some even called the session "miraculous" for solving the FY 2003 budget crisis without raising taxes.

"When times are tough, we have taken the responsible approach to prioritize, and address the critical needs of the people of the state of Missouri," said Kreider. "We've weathered this storm. Now it's time to move on and plan for the future."

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