Parson's budget pitch resonates with Senate leaders

January 23, 2023



JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle expressed their support Thursday for Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed increase of funding for infrastructure, education and health care for mothers.

Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, called the speech “a consensus-building speech” that he thinks is important for the current national political climate.

“It’s good to know that you can cut taxes and still have a growing and vibrant economy, and have some money to do some good stuff,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said he was positive about the address, which was mostly about the state budget and not culture war topics. He suggested that Parson will probably see more pushback from the more conservative members of Senate Republicans than Democrats.

A key point of Parson’s address was a pitch to spend $859 million for I-70 lane expansion. Both leaders expressed support.

Rizzo remarked that Missouri’s stretch of I-70 needs to catch up to the size and accommodations that other states like Texas offer.

Lowering maternal mortality rates and increasing state funding for early child care programs were also heavily supported parts of Parson’s address.

Rizzo said Missouri Democrats have been pushing for these policies for decades and he is glad Missouri Republicans have finally caught up. Rizzo said he wants more to be done but said that should not get in the way of approving what Parson mentioned in his address.

“Perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good,” Rizzo said.

Senate Majority Leader Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, praised Parson’s budget proposals for putting more money and focusing on the maternal mortality rate.

“I myself, and a lot of the women of the Senate, are concerned about issues surrounding children, so I tried to keep a close eye on that,” said O’Laughlin.

There was also qualified praise for Parson’s pitch to increase school funding and pump up teacher pay .

Rizzo stated the continuation of the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Program is a positive step, but the teacher pay boost should be larger. He pointed to Missouri’s low national ranking in teacher pay and result-based metrics.

Rowden also expressed approval of pay raises for teachers, but said teacher pay raises are not the only way to improve school conditions for teachers and students.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity there to continue to show teachers that we value them, that we want to provide more resources to them ... in areas of policy not strictly aimed at teacher pay,” Rowden said.

While both leaders agreed that a lot of the things in the address were not partisan, each ended their press conferences displaying partisan differences on topics of school safety and gun control.

Parson has proposed a $50 million safety grant for Missouri schools, but with no gun laws or school safety reform behind the money.

Rizzo said the grant is a step but wants actual policy like a red flag law for example. A red flag law allows authorities to take weapons from a person who is considered a danger to themselves or others.

He cited the St. Louis school shooting in October as a time red flag law could have stopped the shooter from having a legal gun.

When asked about red flag laws Rowden denied the need for them in Missouri, saying there are ways to protect students in Missouri without encroaching on Missourians’ 2nd Amendment rights.