Gov. Mike Parson swung through Jefferson and Franklin counties Thursday to promote his bonding plan aimed at repairing 250 bridges across the state.
It comes as the proposal appears to be gaining traction in the Legislature — and buy in from key GOP leaders.
During his State of the State speech in January, Parson announced his support for a roughly $350 million bonding plan to repair 250 bridges. Those bonds would be paid off over 15 years with general revenue dollars, as opposed to a dedicated funding source like a gas tax.
Voters rejected a gas-tax hike in last year’s November elections. But standing near a bridge near Fenton, Parson stressed that doesn’t mean that lawmakers are off the hook from dealing with critical transportation needs.
“We have to go back and find solutions,” Parson said. “And people want a solution for us to do something without raising taxes in this state. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Parson added that authorizing the bonding plan will free up $350 million for the Missouri Department of Transportation to work on other projects.
“We have an infrastructure problem in the state of Missouri — and, more specifically, we have a bridge problem,” said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna. “So the leadership the governor has expressed here in coming forward with an innovative solution that has multiple benefits. Imagine 250 bridges advanced in construction all over the state, providing the opportunity to reallocate another $350 million beyond that.”
Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz is sponsoring a resolution authorizing the bonds, and the Sullivan Republican’s measure has passed out of committee. A similar resolution that Rep. Becky Ruth, R-Jefferson County, is sponsoring was recently referred to a House committee.
Some lawmakers have expressed warniness about Parson’s bonding plan, contending it would be better to have a funding source other than general revenue pay off the debt. But Parson is optimistic that the General Assembly will endorse the proposal.
“There’s some work to be done in the Legislature,” Parson said. “But I really believe once people understand what we’re doing here and why it’s good for Missouri, it will move forward.”
After his stop in Fenton, Parson went to a bridge on Route AD at Happy Sac Creek in Franklin County as part of his statewide tour.
Governor praises Senate on low-income housing tax-credit bill
Meanwhile, Parson was bullish about legislation that the Senate endorsed Wednesday lowering the amount of state low-income housing tax credits that can be issued each year.
Senators gave initial approval to Sen. Dan Hegeman’s bill lowering the cap to a little over $115 million a year. If the Senate gives final approval to the Cosby Republican’s legislation, it will go to the House.
The low-income housing tax credit has been frozen since late 2017 — a move that Parson opposed when he was lieutenant governor. But Parson pledged not to restart the incentive unless lawmakers made changes.
“I think that I’ve been very open about that the whole time, that we had to have some sort of reform in the tax-credit industry. And I think it was a big step forward yesterday for the Senate to take that up. They did a great job coming up with a solution to that,” Parson said Thursday.
He added that Hegeman’s bill will ultimately save the state hundreds of millions of dollars — enough money, he added, to pay for the bridge plan he’s pushing.
“I think it was a good step forward,” Parson said. “So I hope they finish that. I hope the House finishes, and we move on to deal with issues like this [transportation funding].”
Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
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