Friday, January 18, 2019

Emery offers thoughts on governor's State of the State message

(From Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar)

This was our first full legislative week, and the legislative process is under way for the historic 100th General Assembly. The Capitol building is still largely enshrouded with weatherproof fabric due to the restoration operation underway. All the new legislators have been sworn in, and we gathered this week in joint session for the governor’s State of the State Address.

Sometimes I forget just how quickly work ramps up once we are officially back in Jefferson City. Even though there is little work that can be done on the floor of the Senate this early in the session, meetings with colleagues, constituents and advocates have begun in earnest. The week has been packed, but productive.

The governor’s State of the State Address was Wednesday afternoon and, as I was leaving the House chamber to return to the Senate, a reporter intervened and asked me what I thought of the speech.

My response was that I thought the governor said all the right things. His follow-up question was about the governor’s talk about $350 million of state debt (bonding) being proposed. I didn’t claim to support everything in the governor’s message, but I do believe that the issues he discussed are important and deserve full and honest consideration.

Three of the most significant commitments the governor made were to 1) not increase taxes, 2) “fundamentally restructure state government” (which I hope means to reduce the size and reach of the government bureaucracy) and 3) curb Medicaid costs. Medicaid costs currently constitute a third of the state budget, and that number seems to grow every year. It is already threatening education, infrastructure and public safety. Former Speaker of the House Todd Richardson has been given the task of reigning in Medicaid, which may only be possible with divine intervention. Please put him by name on your prayer list if you have one. If you don’t, this may be a good time to start one.

The governor spoke at length about education, and even though his focus was on workforce development, industry certification and career education, he appeared to understand the unacceptable level of proficiency in reading and math coming out of elementary and high school education. There were also comments about legal reforms needed in our courts and about essential prison re-entry programs. Just last year, Missouri was facing the possible need for two new prisons, but recent reductions in the prison population have actually allowed the closure of a prison. With some needed reforms, that trend could continue.

I expect the full text of the governor’s remarks are online if you care to search for them. If you have opinions about the governor’s comments, please feel free to contact my office.

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