Lawmakers in Jefferson City head into their summer break with a litany of legislative accomplishments, including several items pushed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.
“It was a great year for infrastructure, a great year for education and it was a great year for workforce development,” said Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby. “All and all, it was a very successful year.”
Regarding infrastructure, the Legislature authorized $301 million of bonds to repair 215 bridges. That final amount was $50 million less than what Parson proposed and will only take effect if Missouri also receives a federal grant to replace a section of Interstate 70. In addition, lawmakers approved $100 million of general revenue for state bridge repairs and local highway projects.
“We also put $5 million in for broadband improvement,” said Hegeman, who oversees the budget process in the Senate. “And we approved $10 million for water infrastructure needs.”
Lawmakers also touted their efforts in regards to education funding, including fully funding K-12 education as well as increasing funding for higher education.
“This was the first time since 2009 that there has been an increase to higher education at the state level,” said Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville. “The Legislature said very loudly and clearly that we support higher education and we support making sure that we keep college affordable.”
The increase to higher education included a $1 million boost to Missouri Western State University’s budget as well as a roughly $500,000 grant to the school’s nursing program.
Luetkemeyer also noted lawmakers were able to pass several workforce development programs that were put forth as a priority by Parson.
“We were able to get all of those things across the finish line, including a program that is an adult workforce training program called Fast Track” he said. “(Fast Track) allows people who are in technical jobs to get training after they have graduated from high school to fill different technical and vocational positions in the workforce.”
Another personal accomplishment that Luetkemeyer pointed to was passing a measure that would institute term limits to the statewide officeholders that are not currently bound by two four-year terms. The resolution, which will now head directly to voters in 2020, would impose term limits on Missouri’s lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and auditor. Currently, term limits only exist for the state treasurer and governor.
Parson, who served previously in both the House and Senate, entered the year with a bit of an advantage.
Many lawmakers knew him, had worked with him in the past and were eager for a change after an often-caustic relationship with former Gov. Eric Greitens, who had publicly ridiculed some lawmakers both before and after taking office in January 2017.
“I really appreciated (Parson’s) engagement of the Legislature,” said Hegeman. “Gov. Nixon just wasn’t really engaging and Gov. Greitens did reach out some but had his difficulties too.
He really knows government from the ground up, knows how to work with people and provide leadership in the State of Missouri.”