Looking Toward Missouri’s Future
While this week was a short one in the Missouri Senate given the holiday on Monday, we were still able to accomplish quite a bit in committee and in debate on the Senate floor.
Perhaps the biggest event of the week was the annual State of the State address given by the Governor where he outlined his spending priorities. Given that this year’s address is the last of the Governor’s eight-year term, he not only discussed spending priorities but also took the opportunity to point out some of the items he considers achievements over the past few years.
Many of those items are ideas the Legislature initiated, sometimes over the Governor’s objections, including balancing the budget, cutting taxes, addressing systematic failures by Missouri’s courts and reforming the state’s welfare policies. Unfortunately most were made with little to no input from the Governor’s office. While I hope the Governor will be more open to communicating with the Legislature this session, his calls for increased spending suggest that we will differ on our approach to governing once again.
In his address the Governor called for an increase in spending by almost a half of a billion dollars. Those increases are for various areas of government including tourism, education, tax credits, and Medicaid. I firmly believe in increasing our spending for education but also understand the need for reforms that provide more choice and flexibility for students, parents, and teachers. In addition, I support ways to grow our economy but do not believe further expanding tax credits, already nearly the most generous in the country, is the answer. Instead, I support creating a favorable business climate by capping some of our tax credit programs and simplifying our code.
The Governor also spoke about transportation. He specifically mentioned support for a proposal to raise the gas tax. I do not support raising taxes on Missourians but instead support ways to cut waste in our current budget and to make the tough decisions regarding what our state priorities should be. To this end, I have filed Senate Bill 645, discussed in last week’s column, which would dedicate a small percentage of the state sales tax to transportation.
The Governor also called for the legislature to pass ethics reform. As I mentioned in my previous column, both the House and Senate have already heard, and in the House passed, ethics bills. My ethics bill awaits of vote in the Senate Rules committee. While the Governor said he would like to see real and significant reform he failed to offer any sort of plan that he would be willing to support. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that when our bills reach his desk he will sign them into law without hesitation.
Finally, the Governor spoke openly about his support for Obamacare Medicaid expansion and asked for a supplemental budget, over half of which would be dedicated to Medicaid. Medicaid costs, even without Obamacare, have skyrocketed, and currently more than one in five Missourians are on Medicaid. About 100,000 people were added since last year. Rather than throwing more money at the problem, I believe in true reforms to the program such as those proposed by my colleague Senator David Sater that examine eligibility requirements.
I am truly hopeful that the Governor will use his final year in office to engage more with the legislature and help support those ideas that will move Missouri forward.
Speaking of moving the state forward, I want to take this opportunity to mention a new organization here in Missouri. The Women’s Policy Network is a bipartisan group formed to support women working in Jefferson City in politics and public policy. The group was formed after discussions among women who work in and around politics showed the need for more opportunities to network and to mentor women in the industry. My Chief of Staff Jennae Neustadt was a leader in the group’s formation and will work to expand it over the coming years. Leadership from both parties has supported the organization and will continue to help encourage its efforts. I am excited about the benefits this organization will bring to women in the Capitol.
Finally, I always enjoy the many visitors I get to see in the Capitol each and every week. The past week, I have welcomed large groups from the St. Charles area including members of the REALTORS Association and of the metro area Chamber of the Commerce. Included below are a few photos of those visits.
As always, thank you for your interest in our work at the Capitol. I look forward to sharing some of the big ideas moving through the legislature with you in my column next week.
Capitol Visitors- I always enjoy welcoming visitors to my office, most especially constituents from my district.
Contacting Sen. Onder
Throughout this session, I will do my best to keep you informed of our work here in the Capitol. I encourage you to contact my office if you have comments, questions or concerns.
For constituent questions, scheduling and general questions, please contact my Scheduler and Director of Constituent Services Theckla Spainhower at Theckla.Spainhower@senate.mo.gov.
For questions pertaining to legislation, please contact my Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Jennae Neustadt at Jennae.Neustadt@senate.mo.gov.
You can reach my Capitol office at (573) 751-1282. You can also e-mail me personally at Bob.Onder@senate.mo.gov.
I would like to encourage you to sign up for my weekly capitol reports so we can inform you of our work each week. Please email Theckla Spainhower at Theckla.Spainhower@senate.mo.gov to be added to our mailing list.
Thank you again for your support. I look forward to serving you.
Robert F. (Bob) Onder, Jr.