Missouri governor proclaims victory with surplus, tax cuts in last address

(The Center Square) – Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson declared victory for his administration and party during his final State of the State address on Wednesday.

Late in his speech to a joint session of the legislature, he singled out his “like-minded colleagues who stood with me, fought alongside me and who came here to be a good public servant and put people first,” Parson said. “… No one and I mean no one has gone to bat for the people of Missouri like this administration and you. And today we have won.”

Parson was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor when Eric Greitens resigned in 2018 amid allegations of sexual misconduct and campaign finance violations.

“We had 60 hours to come in and try to stabilize and start developing a plan when most administrations are given 60 days,” Aaron Willard, Parson’s chief of staff, said during a briefing with reporters before the speech.

Parson said tax cuts during his tenure now give Missouri the 13th lowest tax burden among states.

“We’ve cut taxes three times and reduced income tax burdens by over 20% with the largest income tax cut in our state’s history,” Parson said.

Parson said his $51.8 billion budget – with half coming in federal funding for fiscal year 2025 – will include leaving $1.5 billion in reserves, the first time that large of a surplus was designated.

Rep. Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, and minority leader, said the surplus could go to funding additional programs.

“I understand why the governor is holding that for a rainy day because that rainy day is coming,” Quade said. “And that’s because of Republican tax cuts.”

Parson said state revenue has increased 40% since 2018 and attributed it to growth in sales tax revenue.

Parson received several standing ovations, but the longest bipartisan applause came after his proposal to spend $120.6 million to fully fund the state’s elementary and secondary education formula for the sixth consecutive year and designate $14 million to fully fund school transportation costs.

Parson also recommended increasing state funds to increase the baseline educator salary to $40,000 per year. He also encouraged passage of three new child care tax credit programs.

“These programs will help improve access and affordability for families seeking child care across the state of Missouri,” Parson said. “Additionally, we are continuing funding for the expansion of pre-kindergarten programs.”

Quade noted some negative events that Parson didn’t mention, but praised many of the governor’s proposals.

“There are a lot of things that we could talk about that have not been great for this administration,” Quade said. “But I will pivot back to say that we’re grateful that he’s talking about things important to Missourians.”

Parson’s budget also includes transferring $14 million in interest earned on the I-70 Project Fund for expansion planning of I-44 from St. Louis to Joplin. He also announced Missouri will receive $92.8 million in federal funds for the I-70 expansion.

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