September 2023 Lobbyist Report
As reported in our last newsletter, Governor Mike Parson issued over 200 line-item vetoes in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which will affect or eliminate numerous projects around the state. Many legislators have issued public criticism of the governor’s actions, citing the need for the projects, and pointing to a budget surplus of over $8 billion.
However, Alex Tuttle, the governor’s budget director, paints a different picture in a letter sent recently to lawmakers. While the new fiscal year started off with a more than $8 billion fund balance, the governor’s office stresses that the fund balance does not equal a surplus. In fact, two-thirds of the available balance has already been committed to various programs and projects. Additionally, after huge gains of over 14% in revenue growth last year, tax collections are currently down and are projected to stall out at 0.7% in the future. Tuttle also points out that recent tax cuts passed by the General Assembly based on revenue surplus, could lead to a budget deficit down the road.
While some legislators have made statements about wanting to override many of the budget vetoes during the upcoming veto session in September, it is highly unlikely any of the overrides will actually occur.
Members of the House Republican Caucus recently gathered in Branson for their annual slate of summer meetings. The event is an opportunity for members to set their agenda for the next legislative session, interact with other legislators and lobbyists, and raise funds for the caucus as the event is sponsored by numerous business and special interest groups from around the state.
Governor Mike Parson along with Senate Appropriations Chairman Lincoln Hough traveled the state recently to do ceremonial bill signings of HB4, which is the funding authority for the statewide expansion of Interstate 70. One of the stops was in Foristell, where the governor remarked that Missouri was the birthplace of I-70, and the $2.8 billion expansion project will ensure new opportunities for business along the I-70 corridor. Parson said construction will begin next summer and will take six or seven years to complete.
Numerous elected officials from around the state attended the Governor’s Ham Breakfast recently at the State Fair in Sedalia. Thebreakfast is a traditional gathering of the Governor, elected officials, and leaders in the agriculture community. The sold-out event featured a full breakfast for $50 per plate, with money raised at the event supporting Missouri’s Youth in Agriculture. Governor Mike Parson told those in attendance that he was proud to host the 70th ham breakfast at the fair. Parson told the crowd of more than 1,200 that agriculture in Missouri remains strong in spite of the ongoing drought and high fuel costs.
Legislators will return to the Capitol in mid-September for the annual veto session which is slated for September 13. As mentioned above, it seems unlikely that any veto overrides will occur. Also, on tap that week is a full slate of fundraisers in Jefferson City, as lawmakers take the opportunity to raise campaign money.
We will continue to update you with the latest in political news from Jefferson City and around the state.