Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Thursday approved most of a roughly $48 billion state budget while cutting $500 million lawmakers had set aside for tax refunds.

The budget outlines spending on state programs and services for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Friday.

Notably, Parson cut funding for a new tax refund program spearheaded by the House Budget Committee leader. He previously raised concerns about the refunds, which were only slated to go to individuals earning less than $150,000 and couples making less than $300,000 annually.

Parson has said he'd prefer to dole out tax breaks to all Missourians.
In total, Parson cut about $644 million in spending proposed by lawmakers, mostly federal stimulus funding.

“This past session was often obstructed by petty infighting and personal political interests, but common sense prevailed,” Parson said in a statement, taking a dig at Republican feuds that caused roadblocks in the Senate. “We applaud members of the General Assembly for capitalizing on this opportunity and prioritizing the continued success of our state."

Other spending approved by Parson includes money to fully pay for the state’s share of public K-12 busing costs, which have been underfunded since 1991.

A new program included in the upcoming year's budget will increase teacher pay to at least $38,000 a year if local school districts agree to pitch in 30% of the costs.

The Republican governor also signed on to a plan to give parents and other caregivers up to $1,500 in grants or reimbursements to pay for tutoring and other resources to help K-12 students catch up after falling behind during the coronavirus pandemic, another proposal headed by the House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Cody Smith.

Public four-year colleges and universities are set to get a 5.5% funding increase, or about $51 million compared to the latest fiscal year, along with another $460 million for construction projects at university and college campuses across the state.

Republican lawmakers caved this year and included money to pay for Medicaid expansion under the terms of the 2010 federal health care law signed by former President Barack Obama, as approved by Missouri taxpayers in 2020.

Parson approved that funding, along with more money to pay for in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities.

He lauded investments in infrastructure, one of his top policy priorities as governor. The budget includes close to $366 million for broadband expansion and $608 million for drinking water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure.