Republicans spar over transportation bonding bill overnight

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sen. Bill Eigel briefly took over the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon to block the body from taking up a transportation bonding bill — all while decrying the concurrent resolution.

Eigel, Sen. Bob Onder, and the Conservative Caucus emerged as the fiercest critics of the resolution and — quite literally — stood in the way of taking it up initially. Republicans remained at loggerheads over the infrastructure proposal that would borrow $351 million for several hours until early Wednesday morning with no action actually taken. 

The resolution — with a tweak added to it — authorized a seven-year bond plan with $70 million less in interest than originally planned. It is sponsored by Sen. Dave Schatz and has been backed by Gov. Mike Parson. 

“The bond will be put to good use, repairing 250 failing bridges,” Schatz said.

“Constitutionality is the first concern I have. And from a fiscal policy standpoint, we’re getting away from a balanced budget,” Eigel said while sparring with Schatz on the floor, pointing to a difference between the federal government’s spending and Missouri’s obligation to “not spend more than what we bring in.”

Schatz pushed back against critics of the costliness of the project, maintaining the resolution creates a “reasonable amount of debt” especially given the project’s “long term benefit” of accelerating projects and fixing infrastructure.

“I don’t think taking on some debt is irresponsible,” he said. He declined to answer just what level of debt would be too much for the state when pressed by Eigel.

“Given the circumstances though… I truly believe it’s not an unreasonable ask. I think it’s worthy of us going down this path — and that’s just a difference of opinion,” Schatz said.

Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed castigated the GOP infighting, saying “Republicans [have] gone wild.”

“Still to this day, I don’t understand the Republican philosophy in the state of Missouri because they always say they want to reduce taxes but then they increase taxes,” Nasheed said. “We have to be able to roll up our sleeves, come up with a comprehensive solution, and do what the departments will not in the next three to four years.”

“This is not a Democrat-Republican fight. You all are fighting amongst yourselves and can’t keep it together when it comes to infrastructure,” she said.

Parson requested a $351 million bond earlier this year to expedite the repair or replacement of the 250 Missouri bridges needing to be tended. He defended borrowing such a significant amount of money to facilitate the creation of jobs and fix the state’s infrastructure for at least several decades.