Work at the Capitol is rapidly picking up in the 2024 legislative session. In this report, we’ll focus on the upcoming state budget, ongoing work to reduce taxes, the fentanyl crisis, and supporting after-school programs.
First, let’s talk more about the upcoming state budget. This is my sixth year serving as a member of the Budget Committee and an appropriation vice chair. Maintaining a balanced and conservative state budget is one of my greatest responsibilities. The upcoming state budget is estimated by the governor’s office to exceed $50 billion, but the state’s budget is projected to decrease over the next several years as large federal COVID monies are reduced.
Overall, the state’s economy is doing well. Missouri has achieved a “AAA” financial rating and has risen to 15th overall for job creation among the 50 states. The state unemployment rate has been hovering around 2.1%, which is the lowest in state history.
Over the last few years, we have also passed three separate tax cuts, including the bill I sponsored eliminating all Missouri income tax on Social Security benefits. We have also been able to reduce state debt. The state bond debt for road and bridge construction has been reduced by over $600 million (a 53% reduction).
This past week in the House, I joined with the majority in voting for additional tax cuts and credits targeting working parents. Although some argue that we should pass only tax cuts and credits that help businesses, I disagree. Inflation has hammered the budgets of all Missourians, not just our businesses. To make ends meet, our hardworking parents across the state need critical tax relief as well. I hope the Senate agrees.
Bills providing much-needed clarification to last year’s senior property tax credits are also moving forward in the House. I’d rather fix (and clarify) the senior tax credit bill than see it tied up in court for several years. A language fix seems like a commonsense thing to do, but sometimes, politics doesn’t make much sense. I’ll keep you advised.
As chair of the Judiciary Committee, I’m backing two bills in committee that will increase punishments against fentanyl drug dealers. Fentanyl deaths are preventable, but its illegal distribution continues to rise and wreak havoc on Missourians and their families. One bill will increase punishment against illegal drug dealers when distribution causes death or serious physical injury to any person. The second bill specifically targets protection of children by increasing punishment against dealers and users when a child is recklessly exposed to fentanyl causing serious physical injury or death to that child. Even in small quantities, fentanyl can be deadly.
This session, I’ll again be supporting the expansion of voluntary prekindgarten programs as well as funding of after-school programs for kids through high school. Teachers and other educators not only provide a safe learning space, but they also ensure that our youth are developing important social, ethical, and technical skills. Investing time and money in our kids is imperative to building a better future and will always be one of the principal missions of my life.
If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally or at the Capitol, please call Becky Connell at my office at 573-751-1455, or email my office at email@example.com. We appreciate hearing from you.