JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Speaking to a room of more than 250 local officials from across the state, the Governor and the Senate President Pro Tem stressed the importance of funding infrastructure and moving Missouri forward.
Sen. Dave Schatz spoke to attendees at the Missouri Municipal League’s annual conference on Tuesday night. Gov. Mike Parson and Rep. Tom Hannegan addressed the local officials on Wednesday morning.
“We are thrilled they came. They all bring a message of wanting to work with local government,” said Dan Ross, Executive Director of the Missouri Municipal League. “[Infrastructure] is absolutely essential to local government. It is essential to citizens. If infrastructure isn’t there, then trucks can’t bring goods, ambulances can’t get to where they need to go, people can’t get to jobs…”
Ross noted he was disappointed that Proposition D failed in November — a sentiment echoed by the public officials and attendees — but was thankful that Parson put forward a plan to fund repair of bridges in critical condition.
Parson is proposing a $351 million bond package that the state would pay off over 15 years. The funds would go the fix 250 bridges in Missouri that are in need of critical repair or replacement.
“Being a small business owner, I understand the need for infrastructure investment…I think the Municipal League understands the need for investment in infrastructure,” said Schatz. “The reality is that those bridges will last 50 to 75 years. So, long after those bonds are retired those bridges be in existence.”
“Even if we get this passed, even if it happens, it is a bandage for a major problem,” said Parson. “If you want businesses to come to your town, if you want businesses to come to this state, you gotta face infrastructure.”
In his address, Parson also stressed the need for workforce development and attracting businesses to the state.
He noted that there are several proposals moving through the General Assembly that would improve Missouri’s workforce and help attract businesses. But they, as a state, need to better at selling themselves, according to Parson.
“We don’t market ourselves well. We need to do a better job. I need to do better,” said Parson.
He needs mayors and council persons, Parson noted, because they can share personal stories of why they live in an area that could resonate with a business.
They are also working to identify areas where business need train employees to train Missourians in those fields.
“Everyday I go into the governor’s office and I try to do what is best for the state of Missouri,” said Parson.
The Municipal League is following several pieces of legislation. They want to avoid new bills that would take away local control or provide an unfunded mandate or block cities from being able to be successful. Ross noted they are particularly considered about one size fits all bills because the needs aren’t the same in every city.
“We are so pleased that over 250 local officials take time out of their work day and week to come here and learn about the legislature and the legislative process and go to their legislator from their hometowns and let them know what is important to cities,” said Ross. “It is a busy time at the Capitol. We are tracking over 200 bills that would impact municipalities this session.”