As is typical at the beginning of the legislative session, debate on the floor of the Missouri Senate this week has been brief. Most of the work is being done in committees that have been recently appointed by the President Pro Tem. In the next few days, however, the bills approved by these committees will be returned to the full Senate and debate will begin in earnest.
At the top of our agenda this session is passing legislation that will help create a healthy business climate and bring more jobs to Missouri. In addition to litigation reform and reducing taxes on those who employ our citizens, another important goal is creating a workforce that is well-educated and equipped for the 21st century.
For a company looking to relocate or expand, a workforce that is capable and trained is an important consideration. We can help make Missouri a more attractive place for businesses by making sure that people have access to an affordable higher education at a four-year university, a community college or a specialized technical school.
For students ready to make the leap from high school to college, Missouri offers several programs to make that plan more possible. The A+ Schools Program, which is designed to give Missouri’s most hardworking students money for college, is a great example. In the current fiscal year (which will end on June 30, 2011), this program will receive $22 million in state funds. Also available are Bright Flight scholarships, which are merit-based plans for the best and brightest students. In the current fiscal year, Bright Flight is receiving $12 million. Likewise, Access Missouri, which is a needs-based program, is receiving over $32 million. All of these are great ways to get the financial boost needed to attend college in Missouri.
Next year’s funding for these and all state programs is currently under review by the legislature. The budget is unusually tight due to the sluggish economy, but it is my hope that we can continue to provide substantial amounts of funding for these important investments in the future of the next generation.
On another note, this week our legislative session was cut short by a historic blizzard that blanketed much of the state. However, the Senate was still able to advance important parts of our agenda before leaving town. Three pro-jobs bills were voted out of their respective committees and are ready for consideration by the full Senate when we convene again on Monday. This includes legislation that would remove an outdated lug on businesses seeking to expand here in the Show-Me State by phasing out, and eventually removing, the franchise tax on a company’s assets. The other bill would protect employees from lawsuits from co-workers when an accident occurs. The injured party would still have access to the workers’ compensation system which was created for such situations.