Gov. Parson gets opposition from his own party over money for bridges

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JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson is facing early opposition from his own party to one of his main goals for this session, infrastructure.

During his State of the State speech, Parson proposed a plan that would allow for $351 million in bonds to repair or replace 250 bridges in Missouri. The bonds would be repaid over the next 15 years, at about $30 million a year.

Sen. Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, said his concern is the debt the state would face and the unequal distribution of projects.

"If Missourians throughout the state are going to be going into debt to do this bonding, I think the projects need to be distributed equitably throughout this state,” Onder said.

A Senate committee met Tuesday to hear from people and organizations for and against the bill.

Supporters include organizations like the Missouri Farm Bureau and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

“There was a lot of testimony in favor, but a lot of it was from companies that would benefit financially from the construction dollars,” Onder said.

Parson's bond plan comes after voters shot down Proposition D, a gas tax increase on the November ballot that would have gone toward Missouri roads and bridges. 

Scott Charton, the former communications officer for Safer MO, a group who supported Proposition D, said the bond issue is important for Missourians.

“These bridges are not getting any safer, in fact they’re deteriorating," Charton said. "When you’ve got a 50 or 60 year old bridge, it can’t wait for a solution. The bonding proposal is the most near term best idea that we have to get safe bridges up and running and it’s really needed.”

Charton said waiting to repair these bridges could be dangerous.

“We don’t need to wait until there’s a tragedy to get motivated about this," he said. "These bridges are old, they're deteriorated. They need to be fixed now and the bonding is the way to do it now"

Onder said he has talked to other senators who are opposed, but would not say who that is.