Spending for ports reduced

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Senate budget writers have reduced funding for Missouri river ports by nearly two-thirds from what the House of Representatives recommended.

The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee would slash the state's contribution to ports for the coming fiscal year to $169,987 -- $300,000 less than called for by the House. The lower chamber of the General Assembly suggested keeping port funding at the same level as appropriated for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Such substantial cuts could cause development of fledgling ports in Mississippi and Ste. Genevieve counties to come to a standstill.

The future of the Dorena-Hickman Ferry in Mississippi County also would be in jeopardy. Missouri and Kentucky split the $150,000 annual cost of operating the ferry. Missouri's share comes from port funds.

Kentucky's portion is contingent on Missouri paying its half.

Area ports affected

Ports in Scott City, New Madrid and Pemiscot counties would be expected to survive by shifting from capital improvements and expansion to operating on a larger share of revenue they collect in fees. That could hamper the ability of those facilities to attract new tenants.

The Senate panel cut more than $600 million from the $19.4 billion state budget passed by the House. The full Senate will begin work on the budget today.

Difficult to restore

State Sen. Bill Foster, R-Poplar Bluff, said the cuts would hurt port development but in a tight budget year it would be difficult to restore the money on the Senate floor. Two ports are in Foster's legislative district.

"Ports are vital to our area," Foster said. "... But can I get the money back in the budget? I don't see how."

The port funding is part of the appropriations bill that includes spending for the Department of Transportation.

All told, the Senate committee cut $1.3 million from the House's recommendation for MoDOT.

If the full Senate follows the committee's recommendation, the differences from the House version have to be worked out between negotiators from the two chambers before the bill could be sent to the governor for his signature.

The bill is HB 1104.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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