The Capitol is busy again as lawmakers returned to Jefferson City on January 8 for the start of the 2020 legislative session. Senators and Representatives hit the ground running, filing over 1500 bills and resolutions thus far.
Funding for transportation infrastructure remains a high priority again this session. There have been many bills filed taking many different approaches and filed by many different legislators in the House and Senate. One of the bills filed which started out moving quickly was SB539, which increases the gas tax from 17 cents to 19 cents per gallon, and the tax on diesel from 17 cents to 23 cents per. After implementation, the tax rate will be adjusted annually for inflation. The bill made quick progress initially, being heard by the Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee and voted out the same day. We expect the bill to slow to a snail’s pace now because of opposition by a handful of senators. It remains to be seen how which bill will advance on this topic.
Governor Mike Parson appeared before a joint session of the Missouri House and Senate on Wednesday, January 15 to deliver the annual State of the State address to lawmakers. Parson took the opportunity to talk about accomplishments since taking office, along with laying out his legislative agenda and budget for the next year. In his speech, the governor spoke at length about transportation and workforce development – which continue to be items he has focused on since taking office. The governor also spent time talking about the ongoing rise in violent crime in the major cities across the state. His proposal focused on increased protection for witness and victims of violent crime, tougher penalties for those crimes and an increase in available mental health services.
Parson’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 includes $50 million to continue the transportation cost-share program, a $5 million increase for rural broadband development, and $10.1 million to continue the port capital improvement program. There was also $4.4 million allocated to continue the Fast Track program, which is designed to encourage adults to pursue certificates, degrees, or industry-recognized credentials in high-demand occupations. K-12 education also saw a $12 million increase for the Foundation Formula in the governor’s proposal, as well as a $10 million increase in student transportation funding.
Democrats in the legislature were not totally enamored with Parson’s proposals. In their response to the State of the State address, Senate Minority Floor Leader Gina Walsh said, “This was a disappointing and, frankly, troubling speech. More than 100,000 kids have had their health care taken away by Governor Parson’s administration, and today, he continued to ignore this crisis. Meanwhile, his party continues to stand in the way of common-sense changes to prevent gun violence, address the opioid epidemic, and make college more affordable. The biggest issues facing Missouri were essentially ignored by Governor Parson today, and that is incredibly unfortunate for middle-class families.”
As the legislative session continues, House and Senate priorities, along with Governor Parson’s initiatives, will begin to sort their way through the process. Of the many bills that are filed, very few will make it across the finish line as was evidenced last year when only 102 bills and resolutions were passed. The session runs through May 15.
We will continue to keep you updated on issues and happenings in Jefferson City and around the state that impact ASA and the construction industry. We appreciate the opportunity to represent you. Nikki Strong, Strong Consulting Group LLC