JEFFERSON CITY − Gov. Mike Parson delivered his 2023 State of the State address to the Missouri General Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
He titled the address, "We Are Not Done Yet." This title, according to Parson, stems from the continuation of what his administration has started in preparations to build a stronger state infrastructure.
Parson centered his speech upon state infrastructure, workforce and education, government reform, health and mental health care, and public safety.
The governor recommended major investments to Missouri's infrastructure, including $250 million for broadband expansion.
Parson touched on a new $35 million program that would improve railroad crossing safety. The state would partner with local communities and railroads to improde safety at the crossings.
The governor said the June 2022 crash in Mendon that killed four people and severely injured dozens more, highlighted the need for the new program.
"While the power of the people and the goodness of their character made a bad situation a little better this time, the state must be proactive and help prevent a similar situation again," Parson said. "That is why we are including $35 million to begin updating railway crossings to modern safety standards all across the state."
Parson called on the General Assembly to make investments in widening and rebuilding the Interstate 70 corridor. His $859 million plan would expand I-70 to six lanes from St. Louis to Warrenton, Kansas City to Odessa, and extend both east and west from Columbia.
The plan will reduce congestion, traffic accidents, and delays that have brought upon many issues for commuters, Parson said.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the time is now," he said.
This year, we are requesting $859 million to widen and rebuild the I-70 corridor and take the first step in adding a third lane across our state.To those who say we can’t afford it, I say we can’t afford not to. pic.twitter.com/7H46gHbdZm— Governor Mike Parson (@GovParsonMO) January 18, 2023
Workforce and Education
Parson's budget proposal includes $117 million to fully fund the foundation formula, $233 million for school transportation needs and $32 million to expand the Career Ladder program.
There was also a strong emphasis from the governor in continuing the Teacher Baseline Salary Program that raised teacher pay from $25,000 to $38,000 per year.
Parson suggested implementing three new tax credit programs, which would cost $78 million, including:
- Child Care Contribution Tax Credit: Encourages contributions to child care providers to improve and expand facilities and services
- Employer-Provided Child Care Assistance Tax Credit: Benefits employers who offer child care assistance to their employees
- Child Care Providers Tax Credit: Assists child care providers with payroll costs and incentivizes capital improvements to child care facilities
"Together these supports will help serve more Missouri families by enabling more child care providers to remain in business, start their business, or expand their business," Parson said.
Regarding higher education, Parson suggested a 7% ($71 million) increase in core funding to Missouri's public higher education institutions. It would be the largest increase in 25 years, according to the governor.
Parson re-emphasized the 8.7% cost of living adjustment for state employee pay through the General Assembly. This will go to help the understaffed and under-resourced facilities facilitating high-demand evening and overnight shifts.
A $2 per hour increase is also recommended for state employees working in congregate care facilities during high-demand evening and overnight shifts.
Parson recommended $22 million for the Missouri Department of Social Services' Children's Division, which Parson says remains critically understaffed and under-resourced.
Health and Mental Health Care
Parson requested $3.5 million to expand the state's youth behavioral health liaison program and to add 27 additional liaisons across the state.
According to data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), Missouri ranks 44th in the U.S. for its "abnormally high" maternal mortality rate. Parson asked the General Assembly to allocate $4.3 million to implement the DHSS' new maternal mortality plan to support children and mothers.
During the speech, Parson proposed a $50 million grant for school safety programs for Missouri schools to implement safety plans, establish school resource officers and increase active threat trainings.
Republican House leaders voiced their support for Parson's priorities, saying that the House is ready to work with the governor to advance policy measures.
House Speaker Dean Plocher, Majority Floor Leader Jon Patterson and Speaker Pro Tem Mike Henderson shared a joint statement:
“Governor Parson provided a clear vision for the areas we need to address and invest in to ensure a bright, prosperous future for our state. We are committed to working with the governor to find commonsense, fiscally responsible solutions that create safer communities, give our children the educational opportunities they need to become successful, productive adults, and invest in critical infrastructure improvements that will position our state for sustained growth.
“We’re proud of the work we’ve done with the governor to enact historic tax relief, provide record funding for our system of education, and support law enforcement. As the governor said, ‘we are not done yet.’ Over the next several months we will work closely together to fully vet these proposals with the goal of creating good public policy that will benefit Missourians from all walks of life and all parts of the state.”
After the address, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade held a press conference and said the rest of the Republican part needs to step up to help fulfill the governor's promises.
“While the governor is talking about investments, our colleagues in the building are talking about censorship," Quade said. "While the government is talking about taking care of our families, our colleagues are focusing on extremes and divisions.”
She also said many of these propositions came from the Democrats.
“I think this is the most we’ve stood up for a State of the State because quite truthfully I think he took a lot of the budget priorities we’ve been fighting for for so long and wrote the budget with it.”
Quade said she was hopeful for more unity. She also said Democrats clapped more than she's ever seen from a Republican governor's address.