Discussions about education, the military and money
A Missouri Senator and two Missouri State Representatives talked to the Chamber of Commerce members at a meeting called Eggs and Issues about concerns and highlights of the state.
Senator Dan Brown spoke first. He talked about various issues such as budget, education, and the prison system.
Brown said he recognized the importance of a budget in the legislation. Brown said, "The only Constitutional mandate for the State Legislator is to pass a balanced budget. The budget reflects our priorities, our commitments to stay in Missouri. You never want to lose sight of the fact that the most important thing is the money. I think anyone that serves in the Legislator should be on appropriations for the budget committee and really try to understand the budget."
Brown referred to education. "This year, we spent 28.655 billion of taxpayers' dollars," Brown said. "We fund education. We are Constitutional; it requires to fund public education, K through 12, at 25 percent of general revenue. We're about 35 percent of general revenue. We're quite a bit above the Constitutional mandate. We want every kid in Missouri, regardless of socio-economic background, to have a shot and to be able to learn. That's very, very important to us."
Brown identified problems he felt are in the prison system. Brown said, "We've got public safety, transportation, and we also have a prison system. The prison system is what it is. In other words, if we are going to lock people up for laws that they break, if we have to take care of it, that's a very high GR--a lot of general revenue--in the Department of Corrections. There really isn't much room for cutting. In level four prisons, we've got one guard watching 70 inmates. That is very, very dangerous. We've got 19-year-old kids going into level four prisons as prison correction officers. To me, that is a disaster waiting to happen."
Missouri State Representative Steve Lynch followed. He recognized the district he both works and lives in. Lynch said, "I love what I do. There's nothing like serving in the district where you live. I just want you to know that I am so blessed to live here and to know so many that are here. I am honored and very humble to serve the area that I grew up in. I am very humble that I'll have this opportunity next year to continue as I am on a close for the coming election and I'll be able to serve out my last term as your State Representative."
He complimented Brown. Lynch said, "He [Senator Brown] has been a great, great partner for me to move our area forward. And I just want to tell you, in real life, not all Representatives get along with their Senators. That has never been the case here. Senator Brown has been a great supporter. Representative Ross has been a great colleague for me to serve with in the House."
Lynch highlighted positive things about the past year. He said, "Despite all the clouds that have flown over the capital over time to time that are still there, it has been a great year for legislation. Not just the amount of legislation that was done, I think it's more than double of what it was last year, but the quality of legislation that was done."
He spoke about the military. "The part that I work in the most has to do with veterans and the military," Lynch said. "And sometimes when all these other things are swirling around, the really good news gets lost in all the storm. There was a bill by Senator Wallenberg. It gave, now, our Reserve on our National Guard state exempt status on income taxes. That falls along with the previous years of us making active military pay state income tax exempt as well as military retirement state income tax exempt."
Missouri State Representative Robert Ross was last to speak. He represents multiple counties. Ross said, "I represent all of Texas county, a third of Phelps and about that same amount here in Pulaski county. There's also a piece that goes up along the Highway 28 corridor towards Dixon--it does make it that far."
Ross talked about tax money. He said, "Nearly everyone will be seeing a change in the amount of money that you are taking home--that you are putting in your pocket. But the real difference that you are going to see is when you file taxes next time. That is going to make a difference to all of our families. And I am proud to see that that made it through."