Sen. Karla Eslinger’s Legislative Column for April 22, 2022

An Opportunity to Address Needs

In previous Capitol reports, I’ve mentioned the “markup” process, when the Senate Appropriations Committee proposes changes to budget bills sent over from the House of Representatives. As a member of this committee, I spent most of the past week reviewing Missouri’s 2023 Fiscal Year operating budget line-by-line. It’s a long-grueling process, but it provides a wonderful perspective on the entirety of state government and the needs of so many diverse groups of Missourians. I’m thankful for the experience.

I recently had the honor of accompanying Gov. Mike Parson as he toured the newly expanded Leonardo DRS manufacturing facility in West Plains. The defense contractor took advantage of a variety of workforce and economic development programs offered by the state of Missouri when it expanded the facility in 2019.

The Missouri Legislature actually only has one duty specifically assigned by the Constitution. We must pass a balanced budget each year. In a normal year, we struggle to make ends meet. This year, we faced a different and unprecedented dilemma: How best to spend an extraordinary amount of money that came to the state from federal programs? Over the past two years, the U.S. Congress has passed a series of enormous legislative packages intended to fund the COVID-19 response and help the nation’s economy recover from the resulting downturn. Meanwhile, Missouri’s economy is in hyper-drive, and state tax revenues are strong. The result of this is what is likely to be the largest budget in Missouri history.

The Legislature has been presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to finally address needs that have been neglected for a long time. One area I have focused on is deferred maintenance projects at our career and vocational tech schools. During markup, I asked for $5.5 million to help these facilities address neglected needs. This follows a $2 million appropriation I secured in last year’s budget to begin this work. Our career centers help train students for the workforce immediately, so making sure they have the best equipment and facilities should be a top priority as we get Missouri back to work.

Another one of my priorities is character education. Our schools are responsible for ensuring every student has a quality education, but that shouldn’t just pertain to math, literacy and civics. Last year I was able to add $160,000 in the budget to fund an ethics and morals curriculum in the classroom. The 2023 Senate budget continues this program with an increased appropriation of $200,000. Along those same lines, this year I filed Senate Bill 1175, legislation that would require the development of patriotic and civics training for teachers based on “The 1776 Report.” You may recall this report was developed by President’s Trump’s 1776 Commission and is intended to instill an appreciation for American history and the nation’s traditions. The Senate version of the 2023 budget anticipates the passage of my legislation with a $500,000 appropriation.

It was my pleasure to join Rep. Bennie Cook in welcoming members of the Summersville FFA chapter to the State Capitol.

I also advocated for volunteer fire departments to receive their share of Missouri’s budget surplus. Last year I worked with our State Fire Marshall to move the worker’s compensation fund for volunteer fire departments from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Public Safety. Volunteer fire departments can apply for grants through this fund to cover their worker’s compensation payments. This year’s budget continues the $575,000 appropriation for this program begun last year. Our firefighters sacrifice so much for us, and I am glad to stand behind them, and support them in any way I can

Next year’s budget is one for the history books. Not only is it the largest in state history, but it takes advantage of the unusual influx of federal dollars to finally address some long-neglected critical needs. This budget will be one that reflects our state; and supports our educators, our students, our citizens and our values. Deciding how best to take advantage of this opportunity has been an awesome responsibility, but I’m working hard to make sure that every dollar the state spends will be spent responsibly.

It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011.  You can also visit my webpage at, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.