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Parson pitches I-70 improvements and education funding hikes in State of the State address

Gov. Mike Parson delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in a joint meeting of the 102nd Legislature at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in a joint meeting of the 102nd Legislature at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

With Missouri flush with cash, Gov. Mike Parson wants the legislature to allocate some of the hefty surplus to widen parts of Interstate 70, expand access to early childhood education, and provide a backstop against future cuts to K-12 schools.

Parson also used his State of the State speech Wednesday to push for incentives that could make child care more available and affordable — something the GOP governor said is critical for expanding access to the workforce.

“Missouri is stronger today, and we’re going to continue what we’ve started,” Parson said. “Because this governor isn’t done yet. We are not done yet.”

Among the items in a roughly $57.3 billion budget is $859 million to expand lanes in parts of Interstate 70. State officials say the lane widening will focus on the Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia portions of the highway.

Dan Haug, Missouri Budget Director, presents his budgetary recommendations to Gov. Mike Parson for the next fiscal year on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during a media preview of the State of the State address at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Dan Haug, Missouri Budget Director, presents his budgetary recommendations to Gov. Mike Parson for the next fiscal year on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, during a media preview of the State of the State address at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

In St. Louis, the money would go toward expanding the highway from two to three lanes from Wentzville to Warrenton, said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna.

“For years, congestion, traffic accidents, and delays have become serious issues for commuters on I-70. Not only are we concerned for motorist safety, these inefficiencies are costly to our state’s economy. And we must invest to improve I-70,” Parson said. “To those who say we can’t afford it, I say we can’t afford not to.”

Funding for the project will come from the state’s general revenue surplus although state Budget Director Dan Haug said there will also be efforts to get federal funding for the project. Parson Chief of Staff Aaron Willard touted the money for I-70 as a way to strengthen the nation’s supply chains, which have been under stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you look at the map, Missouri is at the nexus of our U.S. supply chain,” Willard said. “This is an exciting opportunity to do something not only for the communities and the people of the state. This is a chance for us to lead nationally.”

Early childhood education funding

Parson is also proposing about $59 million to expand access to early childhood education programs. Under the proposal, the money would help pay for 4-year olds who receive free and reduced lunch to attend pre-K programs at public and charter schools. The governor’s office predicts it will provide access to early childhood education programs to roughly 17,000 people throughout the state.

“There is a clear need to do better when it comes to early childhood,” Parson said. “Let’s meet this moment for Missouri kids, families, and businesses.”

Additionally, Parson wants to create three tax credits aimed at bolstering the state’s child care infrastructure. That’s in addition to bumping up the amount of subsidies given to the state’s child care providers by about $78 million.

“These programs will help improve child care facilities, support employers who support their workers with child care assistance, and allow more of our dedicated child care workers to earn a pay increase,” Parson said.

Education rainy day fund

Parson also wants to place $250 million in an account aimed at preventing future cuts to K-12 schools. He is also proposing fully funding K-12 transportation.

“This year, we will again fully fund the foundation formula with an additional $117 million to ensure Missouri schools are receiving the support they need,” Parson said.

For higher education institutions, Parson is proposing roughly a $70.8 million increase. He’s also pitching $275 million for higher education capital improvement projects as well as $234.2 million for improving state facilities.

State employee pay raises

Parson wants to commit $273.6 million for state employee pay raises, something he said is crucial for making sure state services are carried out effectively.

“For anyone who can’t already see the dire need for this action, we want to be clear, this is not state government setting the market,” Parson said. “This is merely an attempt by state government to stay competitive with the market. If we allow state government to fall behind, we allow Missourians to fall behind.”

Haug said that the state should still have around $4 billion in the bank after this year’s budget. He said the goal is to not spend the state’s surplus at once

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Gov. Mike Parson delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in a joint meeting of the 102nd Legislature at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.
Brian Munoz / St. Louis Public Radio
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Gov. Mike Parson delivers his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in a joint meeting of the 102nd Legislature at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.