Tuesday, we had a Transportation Committee meeting and heard several bills. There is a growing need for additional funding all over the state. Every rural county has deteriorating roads and bridges to deal with, and the Special Road Districts are particularly hard hit. With cars and trucks getting better mileage all the time and the Federal Government continually raising the standards for fuel mileage, our fuel taxes are shrinking at an alarming rate. MoDOT instituted a drastic cut in their facilities and eliminated thousands of positions within the division, but they can only cut so far. The budget now allows only enough funding to maintain our 30,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges. All of our new construction has come to a halt. It is only a matter of time before the current funding levels shrink some more and then our State highways will start to look like our county roads. We have to find a solution to both problems and soon! Ideally, this won't cost anyone too much more. There should be some possible solutions coming, I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, I set the new record for the most people to show up for a committee hearing. My Workforce Committee heard a Right to Work bill and the room was overflowing into two hallways. There were about 15 people to testify for the proposal and 25 or so to testify against. The hearing was scheduled for two hours but in order to give everyone a fair chance to speak, we recessed for session, then came back for an additional two hours. Every person there was respectful of others and there we no outbursts or displays from anyone. It really makes you proud to see people have an exchange of ideas and philosophies while respecting each other’s right to their opinion. I'll tell you something else, there's a lot better chance of getting your point across and even changing other people's minds about an issue when you can do it without getting irate! We will have a couple more hearings on similar proposals, but I expect them to draw much smaller crowds. The Speaker promised us he would allow public hearings on several controversial issues this session and so far, we are getting them presented. I think that it is far better to hold a public hearing and let people exchange ideas than to deal with constant rumors about what might be going on.
Thursday, the house passed a unanimous bipartisan bill that reestablishes the benevolent tax credits that were eliminated by the Governor last session. These are things like credits for Pregnancy Centers and Food Pantries. I agree with cuts to the budget where it is necessary, but there are a whole lot of things we can cut that don't affect as many lives as these did. The budget numbers have been sent to the appropriations committees and we should start getting our final figures next week or the week after. The Budget Committees in both houses have been working day and night to get the proposals ready. We will definitely have a balanced budget and it will NOT be dependent on "iffy" numbers from the Feds. If the money isn't there, we will not spend it. Missouri is in great shape and we intend to keep it that way.
All the County Commissioners were at the Capitol last week and from what I heard, they were kept hopping the whole time learning what they needed to know to help their counties stay in the same great shape the State is in. We are really lucky in Southwest Missouri to have the caliber of dedicated and hard working men and women that we are blessed with. Keep up the great work!!