Mo. Senate Committee strips funding for takeover of Ozark National Scenic Riverways from fiscal year ’15 budget

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

By Alex Stuckey

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JEFFERSON CITY • The Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee today stripped a $6 million appropriation for a state takeover of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways from the fiscal year 2015 budget.

Committee members are on day two of the committee’s budget hearings and had made it through the first eight of the 13 budget bills as of 5 p.m. today.

The state only could take over operation of the riverways if the National Park Service relinquishes control — and if Gov. Jay Nixon’s revenue growth estimate proves true.

For the budget year beginning July 1, Nixon is counting on 5.2 percent growth in general revenue. House and Senate budget leaders, however, project growth at 4.2 percent. In response, Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, created a surplus revenue fund, where money would be funneled should growth exceed the Legislature’s estimate.

Several entities would receive money through this fund, including the state takeover of the riverways.

House Republicans previously voiced concern about the federal government’s proposed management plan for the riverways, such as adding restrictions for motorboats, horseback riders and ATVs.

Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, tried multiple times to strip this funding from the budget, but failed each time. She reasoned that the state did not have the money or staff to care for the park adequately.

Committee Chairman Kurt Schaefer’s reasoning is a different. The Republican from Columbia said he would be interested in taking over the park if the park service offered, but there is no indication they will do so. Additionally, he doesn’t believe the state will reach Nixon’s growth estimate, so there’s no reason to put it in the surplus revenue fund.

The committee also raised the increase in tourism funding to $10 million — the governor’s initial recommendation — from the $5 million that passed the House.

The bills are HB 2001-2013.

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