Working to Make the Show-Me State a Better Place For All Missourians
As I finish my final legislative session as a member of the Missouri General Assembly, I am proud of the work accomplished by my colleagues. When I was first elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2002, I was part of a group of lawmakers who brought common-sense, conservative principals back to Missouri. As I reflect on my time in the State Capitol, I am proud of the legislation my colleagues and I have passed. I firmly believe our efforts have positively impacted the lives of all Missourians. Despite the distractions of the past year, my colleagues and I worked hard to pass numerous pieces of legislation intended to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.
From my first day in the State Capitol, my top priority has been economic development and job creation. I firmly believe a good job empowers all Missourians to reach their full potential. In order to attract and keep quality, good-paying jobs, we must continue to work to make Missouri an attractive destination for businesses and job creators.
Over the last several years, the Missouri General Assembly has provided several tax cuts intended to reduce the tax burden on working Missourians and our state’s small businesses. However, we have not done enough for our state’s corporations. Senate Bill 884 aims to provide vital tax relief to our state’s corporations by lowering the corporate tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4 percent. As a result, Missouri will now have one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the nation when the cut is implemented in 2020. The legislation also closes a corporate tax loophole, allowing Missouri to lower the tax rate for all corporations.
During my time in office, I have often asked business leaders what they are looking for when they decide to relocate their business. At the top of their list is a state with an educated and trained workforce. House Bill 1415 reauthorizes two of Missouri’s most important economic development tools. Under this legislation, the Missouri Works Training Program and the Missouri Works Program are extended until 2030.
The Missouri Works Training Program addresses the No. 1 challenge facing Missouri businesses in today’s growing economy — finding educated, skilled workers. Through this program, businesses receive funding for job training when they introduce new product lines, new technology, competition-driven quality or productivity improvements or when they expand or relocate their business within Missouri.
In addition to legislation aiming to provide job training to Missouri workers, my colleagues and I also approved legislation intended to promote computer science courses in the classroom. Senate Bill 894 allows the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a program intended to encourage participation in science, technology, engineering and math courses. Careers in computer science are growing at a rate faster than most job fields. Currently, there are more than 10,000 available computer science jobs in our state. By encouraging our students to take computer science classes, I believe we are giving them the tools they need to succeed in today’s advanced workforce.
The General Assembly also approved Senate Bill 629. This legislation aims to reform the State Supplemental Tax Increment Financing (State TIF) program. Through this program, the state can provide financing for large-scale economic development projects. Currently, the program has a $32 million cap, and a majority of the available funding has already been allocated to one project. Senate Bill 629 carves out the existing project and lowers the cap to $10 million annually. This ensures qualifying companies can participate in the program. In addition, the legislation caps the amount of funding available to companies at $3 million per project. Companies looking to participate in this program must create new, high paying jobs in order to receive the TIF. This program isn’t for every business, but I believe it can play a huge role when it comes to attracting large businesses to the Show-Me State.
During the final days of the 2018 legislative session, the Missouri General Assembly approved legislation aiming to provide additional transparency to government labor unions while ensuring employees are in control of their hard-earned money. House Bill 1413, known as the Government Worker Protection Act, makes several changes to state law intended to make public unions more accountable to their members. Commonly referred to as paycheck protection, HB 1413 requires public union members to provide written or electronic consent to unions before their dues or other fees can be deducted from their paycheck. According to the legislation, unions must receive this consent once every year. The legislation also requires public unions to go through a recertification process every three years, guaranteeing public union employees always have a voice in who represents them. In addition, the legislation aims to create more transparency by requiring proposed bargaining agreements to be discussed in detail during public meetings prior to the agreements being presented for ratification. I believe this legislation is vital to giving public union members more control over their paychecks while also ensuring public unions are held accountable to their members.
Under current law, Missouri mandates minimum wage rates for all public works construction projects — things such as roads, bridges and government buildings — often in excess of the state and federal minimum wage rates. Different rates are set depending on the county and the type of project. House Bill 1729 aims to reform the state’s prevailing wage law by changing how the wage rate is calculated for public projects. Under the legislation, if the total number of hours worked on a public works project for a certain occupation exceeds 1,000 hours, each worker will be paid the prevailing wage rate. However; if the total number of hours worked does not exceed 1,000 hours, those workers would be eligible to receive the local public works contracting minimum wage. This rate would be equal to 120 percent of the local, average hourly wage. In addition, HB 1729 stipulates that prevailing wage requirements will not be enforced if a public works project costs less than $75,000. By reforming our state’s prevailing wage law, I believe we are making government construction projects more cost-effective. The goal of this legislation is to save taxpayer resources, while also making it easier for municipal governments to get more bang for their buck on publically funded projects. If a rural community with less revenue than an urban center is forced to pay an unreasonable price on, for example, construction of a new police station, they’ll often be unable to afford it. Through the passage of HB 1729, I believe we are empowering our local communities to stretch their tax dollars further and do more with less.
Overall, I am proud of the work accomplished by my colleagues in both legislative chambers. Despite numerous distractions, the members of the Missouri General Assembly stayed the course and worked hard to pass meaningful, common-sense legislation intended to benefit all Missourians. Serving in the State Capitol has been one of my life’s greatest honors, every day I am reminded of the immense responsibility you have placed in me to represent your views and concerns in these hallowed halls. When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, he made no guarantees during his first speech as prime minister to the House of Commons. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat,” stated Churchill. This quote has inspired me from my first day in the Missouri House of Representatives to my final moments in the Missouri Senate. It has been an honor to serve the citizens of the 32nd Senatorial District.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2173. You may write to me at Senator Ron Richard, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Rm. 326, Jefferson City, MO 65101; email me at email@example.com or visit me on the Web at www.senate.mo.gov/richard.