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Parson prioritizes infrastructure, education, worker pay in State of the State

Watch the Democratic response in the player

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Gov. Mike Parson on Wednesday praised tax cuts approved last year and highlighted his plan to fund education, mental health services and state worker pay raises in his State of the State speech.

Parson said his state budget priorities include infrastructure (and money to expand Interstate 70), workforce development, education and public safety.

Parson kicked off his speech with the phrase, "We Are Not Done Yet.”

Parson touted the tax cuts the state passed in the fall. The top rate dropped from 5.3% to 4.95% this month.

Watch Parson's speech in the player

“This tax cut means that our administration will have cut Missourians’ taxes three times and by 20%,” he said. “Money that can help put gas in the car, food on the table, or saved for a rainy day. It means more money in our economy.”

Parson declared state unemployment falling to 2.4% at one point as the lowest in the state’s history, while taking shots at President Joe Biden’s administration.

“While the federal government tried to solve an inflation problem with more spending, we got to work creating jobs and securing business investment,” Parson said.

Infrastructure was a big part of the speech and specifically mentioned railway safety.

“That is why we are including $35 million to begin updating railway crossings to modern day safety standards all across our state,” Parson said.

A train derailment in Chariton County last summer led to deaths and dozens of injuries. The state also saw more deaths at passive railroad crossings in 2022. Passive crossings are train crossings without any lights or arms to let drivers know of an oncoming train.

Parson also talked about the potential of expanding Interstate 70 to more than two lanes in various parts of the state.

In education, Parson stated he’s requesting $500,000 to assist Jobs for America’s Graduates to further high school students’ education or go directly into the workforce. Parson also said he wants funding for two- and four-year colleges to increase by 7%.

Teacher pay raises – which are being pushed by the state education department and some legislators -- was also referenced during the address.

“This year, we are again funding the program with an additional $32 million to continue the state’s part and benefit more Missouri teachers,” he said. “Another program we are very proud of is our Teacher Baseline Salary Grant program, which raised baseline teacher pay from $25,000 to $38,000 per year.”

Missouri still sits at the bottom nationwide when it comes to teacher salaries. This prompted Parson to make raising starting teacher pay a priority last year. The state-matched grant was passed, and over 6,300 teachers across 350 school districts use the grant. The state pays for 70% and school districts must cover the rest, but the state money is not permanent.

Parson also brought up safety in schools and said he wants to invest $50 million for school safety programs. He said it would allow schools to make security investments on their campuses, which he said could include developing safety plans, establishing school resource officer programs and increasing active-shooter training. 

“In this state, we support and defend our law enforcement officers, we don’t defund them, and we never will,” he said.

Republican leaders in the state House issued a statement after the speech expressing solidarity with the governor's budget priorities.

"Governor Parson provided a clear vision for the areas we need to address and invest in to ensure a bright, prosperous future for our state," the statement says.

In a response after the speech, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade (D-Springfield) said Parson's budget has "solid proposals ... but after decades of neglect more needs to be done."

Quade said she hopes culture war issues such as teaching around race in schools and transgender athletes don't derail discussions about important budget issues.

Article Topic Follows: Politics

Ryan Shiner

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