JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh has always been a strong and vocal leader in the Missouri legislature and has plenty to say when it comes to the state’s budget.
When asked about her reactions to Governor Eric Greitens’ State of the State address on this week’s #MOLEG Podcast, she said she was surprised that she didn’t hear much about transportation, infrastructure, and highways.
The Democratic senator says that the Missouri Department of Transportation tends to get a bad reputation, but that doesn’t change the fact that the MoDOT cannot do more than they have the funding to do.
“They have a lot of good people working there, they have a lot of engineers working there,” she said. “These people know what they’re talking about, and they’re telling us that they don’t have the money to even put gray tape and baling wire on our problems.”
Walsh says the state has serious issues, which affects people all across the state. Missouri’s roadways have been called some of the worst in the nation.
“There are hundreds of bridges that need repair across the state, and we’re responsible for them,” Walsh said. “Should we be? I don’t know, but over a course of years, we’ve taken them in as state bridges, and now they’re ours to figure out how to repair.”
In 2015, it was estimated that nearly 600 bridges in the state were in either serious or poor condition. In 2016, MoDOT added 855 projects to their five-year plan to improve road maintenance, citing improved funding. But at the same time, the department still warns that more money is needed.
“We have a long-term insufficient funding challenge if Missourians want more from their state’s transportation system,” Machelle Watkins, MoDOT’s transportation planning director, said back in May. “And we don’t have the resources available to attack the state’s really big needs.”
Walsh will be the first to admit that she doesn’t have the answers on how to fix the problems, but says that the only way to do that is together.
“This is not a partisan issue. We need to be working together with the Governor’s office and both sides of the aisle to remedy this.”
Gov. Greitens has said that he would not give more money to MoDOT, but Walsh says that the government can’t keep cutting taxes when the costs of services continue rising.
“We keep cutting taxes. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but you don’t go down to the corner store and get a loaf of bread and not pay for it,” Walsh said. “You can’t have these services and not pay for them.”
Listen to the podcast here.
Benjamin Peters was a reporter for The Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine and also produced the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined The Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield.