Missouri Gov. Mike Parson set out his priorities for the 2019 legislative session Wednesday, with workforce development and infrastructure among his key policy pushes.
“My administration is focused on making significant investments in workforce development and infrastructure, reforming and restructuring government responsibilities, and saving for the future,” Parson said in his prepared State of the State address, released just before he took the lectern at the Missouri Capitol. “We look forward to working with the Legislature to move Missouri forward.”
The governor also announced a new $22 million scholarship program called Fast Track, “which will allow Missourians to receive training in high-demand areas largely taught at our community colleges, technical schools, colleges, and universities,” according to a release from Parson’s office.
Parson committed to spending another $5 million on infrastructure to help connect all Missourians to high-speed internet. He also announced his intent to spend millions more on programs which assist the Missouri Works Program, higher education institutions and the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Parson also said he wanted to free up $350 million for MoDOT to start work on 250 bridges across the state in critical need of repair or replacement.
He also acknowledged “challenges” in the Department of Corrections, which has been plagued by staffing issues and high overtime costs. Parson said he is “not interested in building more prisons,” but instead he wants to consolidate operations at the Crossroads and Western Missouri prisons.
The plan would make the prisons more safe, improve security and allow for a pay raise for corrections employees, Parson said.
Parson and both Republican leaders in the Senate and House said they plan on discussing how to possibly change the redistricting process.
Voters approved Amendment 1 in November, otherwise known as Clean Missouri, which included an overhaul in the state’s redistricting process.
Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz (R, Sullivan) and Speaker of the House Elijah Haar (R, Springfield) both said that voters may have not approved of the changes to redistricting, since several other changes were included in the amendment.
“I think in the spirit of what (Missouri voters) voted for, I think we can agree. When they were talking about campaign finance, lobbying gifts, or things of that nature,” Schatz said. “But when it comes to the elements of redistricting and all the things that go into that, I’m not sure if they read it completely, understood it completely.”
Missouri Democratic leadership say they do not intend on changing what voters chose in November.
Democrats also posted a video response on YouTube shortly after Parson began his address.
Parson was lieutenant governor before he inherited the chief executive position from Eric Greitens. Greitens resigned as governor following several bipartisan calls to step down and legal challenges.