The Latest: Democrats react to Missouri governor’s speech
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Latest on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s budget and State of the State address Wednesday (all times local):
Missouri Democrats are taking a dig at former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens while calling on his successor to do better.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh on Wednesday said “simply being better than Eric Greitens is too low a bar to set for any of our leaders.”
Walsh delivered the Democratic response to new Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s first State of the State address Wednesday.
Greitens resigned in June in the face of potential impeachment over allegations of sexual and political misconduct. Parson had been serving as lieutenant governor, but took over as the state’s chief executive when Greitens stepped down.
Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Wednesday called for more access to health care, a bigger mental health safety net, stronger local public schools and quality early childhood education. While she said Parson also outlined programs that Democrats care about, she says she’s not sure how he plans to pay them.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing a funding increase for public K-12 schools while seeking to hold core funding flat for public colleges and universities.
The budget outlined Wednesday by Parson includes a $61 million increase in basic funding for public schools. That would supply the full $3.55 billion called for under state law. School transportation also would get more money.
Parson’s budget chief said he is proposing to keep funding for higher education institutions at the same level as this year.
The nearly $29.8 billion operating budget also includes a 3 percent pay raise for state employees that would start in January 2020. Certain employees would get an additional pay raise to try to bring their salaries up to marketplace standards.
The budget would leave unspent about $117 million.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing to close a state prison as part of a plan to give pay raises to prison guards.
The budget outlined Wednesday by Parson would shut down Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron. Prisoners and staff would be transferred to Western Missouri Correctional Center, which is also located in Cameron.
Department of Corrections officials said the consolidation is made possible because the number of prisoners in Missouri has been declining since September 2017. Meanwhile, Missouri has experienced a staffing shortage in some prisons.
State budget officials said consolidation is expected to save $15 million, part of which would go toward pay raises for Department of Corrections personnel.
The crossroads prison was the site of a riot last year that led to an extended lockdown.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing a new grant program to help adults get the degrees they need for high-demand jobs.
In his budget and State of the State address Wednesday, Parson proposed to spend $22 million on a program that his higher education department said could serve 16,000 people annually.
The grants would cover up to four semesters of tuition for adults over age 25 with household adjusted gross incomes of less than $80,000.
The grants could only be used for those pursuing degrees in “high-need” skill areas. Those specific areas have yet to be outlined.
The Republican governor also wants to provide $16 million to colleges and universities to develop and expand employer-driven training programs.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is proposing to borrow $351 million to repair 250 bridges around the state and free up money for more road repairs.
The bridge bonding program is part of Parson’s budget outlined Wednesday in his first State of the State address.
The plan comes after voters last November defeated a proposed 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase to fund roads and bridges.
Parson is proposing to pay off the bonds with general revenues over 15 years. All the bridges already are in the state’s five-year construction program. That means the bonds would free up existing highway funds to be used for other projects.
The Republican governor also is proposing to use $50 million in state funds for a cost-share program for local road projects that would provide economic benefits.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is set to give his first State of the State address since taking office after his predecessor resigned.
The Republican on Wednesday will outline his top policy priorities and propose a spending plan for Missouri’s roughly $28 billion budget.
Parson was serving as lieutenant governor this time last year. He assumed the governorship in June after former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in the face of potential impeachment over allegations of sexual and political misconduct.
Parson has worked to strike a markedly different tone than Greitens, who openly fought with fellow Republican lawmakers.
Parson’s priorities for the 2019 legislative session include enacting a law to allow the state to collect tax revenue from out-of-state online retailers who sell things to Missourians.