The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to debate HB 3020 today (April 20) regarding the $69 million in ARPA funds that Gov. Mike Parson requested legislators allocate toward development of …
The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to debate HB 3020 today (April 20) regarding the $69 million in ARPA funds that Gov. Mike Parson requested legislators allocate toward development of the Rock Island Trail State Park.
However, a positive outcome is slim, as Senate committee members have been open about their opposition to the bill.
The House of Representatives passed HB 3020 to allocate the $69 million to the 144 miles of rail-trail for the biggest expense items — bridges and tunnels.
According to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, Parson requested the ARPA money for “all the hard parts” from Beaufort to Eldon, including major bridges and tunnels.
However, Senators say they either oppose the bill or have questions about it.
“The $69 million is not enough to build the entire 144-miles of trail,” Brent Hugh wrote on April 5. “It is enough to do the hardest and most expensive portions, including the three major tunnels and two major bridges.”
There were four amendments in the House that would have reduced funding to zero or prevented funding until landowner lawsuits for compensation were closed. Amendment 45 failed 53-81 and was proposed by Rep. Rusty Black from Chillicothe and Livingston.
Amendment 52, which failed 62-70, was proposed by Rep. Scott Cupps, Shell Knob and Barry.
Hugh with the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation noted that it took 45 minutes to debate HB 3020 in the House, which is about eight percent of its overall debate time and two percent of the total budget money.
After voting down the amendments, the measure passed the House and moved on to the Senate.
According to Rep. Bruce Sassmann, R-Bland, 62nd District, the whole $69 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that Gov. Mike Parson recommended being assigned to the Rock Island Trail State Park lives or dies in the Senate.
“They can kill the funding for the trail,” Sassmann said. “These are the same individuals who have tried to stop this development in the past.”
The Senate Appropriations Committee isn’t only focused on HB 3020. They are trying to strip away $3 million in ARPA Funds allocated to HB 3015, also for the trail.
“HB 3015 has some lesser funding,” Sassmann said. “Its funding is HB 3020 which mirrors the governor’s request for funding to develop a trail. The House has supported it. There are rumblings that the Senate will not do the same.”
The risk of losing Rock Island Trail State Park funding has caused a flurry of emails to go out across the state with requests to citizens to take action and write letters to their representatives.
“I think the most influential people are the appropriations chair and vice-chair,” Sassmann said. “I think a lot of people will follow their lead when the budget comes out. If the appropriations chair votes yay or nay, a large number of people will follow that leadership.”
Sassmann called local officials in his district who live along the Rock Island Trail State Park and requested everyone write into their Senate Appropriations Committee prior to the April 20 Senate debate.
“I am afraid if we don’t take advantage of this federal funding, we may never have this chance again,” Sassmann said. “I am nervous and I am worried.”
Sassmann added that many on the Senate Appropriations Committee have never heard of the Rock Island Trail.
“I have been going around to each of the senators in the Appropriation Committee and I have tried to sell them on this trail,” Sassmann said. “I am passionate. I have been trying to sell them on this trail and they know nothing about it. They are not informed and they are going to be making a decision that will have a huge impact on our communities.”
The 144 miles of Rock Island Corridor runs through more than 20 communities along the trail. Funding that would be used for the trail comes from COVIID-19 relief funds and must be used in the next few years or it disappears.
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