Senator Holly Thompson Rehder's Legislative Column for Jan. 23, 2023
Monday, January 23, 2023
Speaking of Priorities
One of the highlights of each legislative session is the annual State of the State Address. Similar to the State of the Union speech the president makes before Congress, the governor appears before a joint session of Missouri’s General Assembly in January and lays out his priorities for the coming year. The speech is carried live on the internet, state agency directors and members of the State Supreme Court are in the audience and there’s lots of clapping whenever the governor talks about a program the audience supports.
There was quite a bit of applause last week, as the governor listed a wide range of new programs he would like to see passed by the Legislature. Most of these were well-received by lawmakers on both sides of the political divide. He called for increased funding for schools at all levels, proposed a new effort to combat Missouri’s deplorable maternal mortality rate and asked the General Assembly to continue supporting his workforce development agenda. Infrastructure investment, always among the governor’s top priorities, was also front and center as he asked for more money for roads and bridges as well as railroads, ports and airports. Among his spending proposals was additional funding for rural broadband services, improvements to the state’s energy grid and physical safety upgrades for Missouri’s schools.
Of all the many good ideas the governor put forward, a few in particular touched my heart. I was especially pleased to hear him focus on the shortage of child care providers in Missouri. To help address this issue, the governor proposed three new child care tax credit programs, and asked the Legislature to approve $78 million in subsidies aimed at improving child care facilities, increasing wages for providers and encouraging businesses to provide child care assistance to their employees.
I was also excited to see the governor budget more than $230 million for school transportation programs. Over the past few years, the Legislature has fully funded the school Foundation Formula, which pays for K-12 education in Missouri. The cost of getting kids to school is a separate item in the budget, however. Sadly, the state has often failed to provide adequate resources, and schools have had to take money from their classroom budgets to pay for school buses, fuel and maintenance. Last year, the Legislature fully funded school transportation for the first time in decades. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget continues this trend, and fully funds the transportation line item. This is huge news for rural schools, which spend so much of their available resources on transportation.
Finally, I was happy to see the governor continue to promote career education and job training. It’s always bothered me when people acted like a four-year college degree was the only path toward success for our young people. Well, that’s one path. The other leads through technical schools and career development programs. With increased funding for apprenticeship programs, employer-driven workforce education and training programs, the governor sends a strong message that Missouri is determined to get to work.
The governor’s budget recommendations are just his proposals, and the Legislature will need to evaluate his ideas as we develop our own budget ideas. This year, I’ve been named to serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, so I’ll have a larger role to play in preparing the budget. I’m looking forward to digging into the governor’s ideas and helping to come up with a balanced state budget that provides funding for critical services while still protecting our taxpayers’ hard-earned money.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.