October 2, 2022

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A year ago, times looked bleak. Missouri officials openly
worried about the state economy as the entire country attempted to navigate all
the unknowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Much has changed.

State Sen. Dan Hegeman of Cosby, chair of the Senate
Appropriations Committee, says the fiscal health of the state is much stronger
than first feared when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“Oh, I think the fiscal state of the state of Missouri is
excellent,” Hegeman tells St. Joseph Post.

Hegeman credits Gov. Mike Parson for guiding the state through
the pandemic.

“He managed our economy well,” Hegeman says of the governor. “He
let the local entities ramp up and ramp down the stay-at-home orders and the mask
ordinances as needed. And I think that kept our economy afloat in the state of
Missouri. At this time last year, we were looking at a dire situation so we
came up with a very conservative budget and this year our budget has been doing
very well.”

It didn’t hurt that Jefferson City got some help from
Washington, D.C. as well.

Hegeman says federal funding approved by Congress and signed
into law by President Donald Trump helped prop up the sagging state budget,
until it got back on its feet. That help from the federal government helped the
state weather the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic better than
expected.

“We’ve gotten a lot of assistance from the federal government
that has been able to provide assistance to folks that were still impacted by
the COVID-19, but all in all our general economy was doing better than certainly
what we thought it was going to be this time last year,” Hegeman says.

Congress approved another coronavirus relief and stimulus
package earlier this year at the prompting of President Joe Biden. Gov. Parson’s
office estimates Missouri will receive $2.7 billion from the $1.9 trillion package
approved by Congress. The Missouri Budget Project projects the state will see
slightly more than $2.8 billion.

Hegeman favors dealing with additional federal assistance next
year, during the regular legislative session rather than calling a special
legislative session specifically to deal with the latest round of federal
dollars.

“There’s no hurry in moving those dollars forward,” Hegeman
says. “We certainly have time to be able to plan for next session and that will
give us some time to get more guidance from the federal government as well.”

Hegeman favors placing the latest federal money flowing to
Missouri into a designated fund, separate from General Revenue.

“It likely will be in a separate fund,” Hegeman says. “For
tracking purposes, I think we’ll probably keep those different items in
separate funds so we can track them and see how they go out. But, largely, they’re
one-time dollars and one-time assistance, which would lend itself to more capital-intensive
projects, more infrastructure related type of projects; one-time expenses.”

Hegeman adds the delay would give lawmakers time to fully
consider how best to spend the money and fully digest restrictions Congress has
placed on the funds.

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