JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After an extraordinarily turbulent year in Missouri politics in 2018, lawmakers head back to Jefferson City Wednesday with a new dynamic, a new governor and a cabinet stocked with new officials.
While much in Missouri politics is still fresh and new, many things remain the same – such as grappling with the defeat of Proposition D in November 2018, which would have funded infrastructure improvements across Missouri.
KMZU’s Brian Lock was able to catch up with Rep. Peggy McGaugh (R-39) to discuss these issues and more in the first edition of the KMZU Capitol Conversation in 2019.
Click below to hear their conversation, which aired Wednesday on KMZU.
Fresh off the heels of the historic 99th General Assembly of the Missouri House of Representatives and Missouri Senate, lawmakers are trudging ahead and hoping for a new dynamic at the state capitol.
Former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned from office in June after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors in St. Louis to drop a felony invasion of privacy charge, filed in connection with an affair Greitens admitted to in 2018.
The fall of Eric Greitens gave way to the rise of Mike Parson, the now-former Lieutenant Governor and a farmer from Polk County, who was elevated to office of governor upon Greitens’ resignation. Gov. Parson, Rep. McGaugh said, has been a breath of fresh air in comparison to his predecessor.
“Working with Gov. Parson has certainly been a blessing and I have been honored to work with him personally on a couple of items and I think we [the Missouri General Assembly] are going to continue to build a true partnership with him. I think the investigation the previous governor was under was hard for all of us. I think that everyone is eager to have a session that just allows us to focus strictly on the business of the people and I know I am certainly down here for that.”
State lawmakers’ short- and long-term plans took a major blow last November when Missouri voters voted down Proposition D, which would have increased the state’s gas tax to help fund infrastructure repair projects. That has left legislators considering their options to cover the shortfall.
“One thing for sure is there is no magic bullet for this problem,” McGaugh admitted. “Our transportation funding issues developed over the years, they didn’t just pop up overnight. We aren’t going to be able to solve them overnight either.”
McGaugh said that it will be difficult to find the funds in the state budget to cover the costs needed for vital infrastructure projects, such as the replacement of the Missouri River Bridge at Rocheport near the Boone/Cooper County line, however she is committed to not raising Missourians’ taxes.
“That’s one thing that having been a former county leader, we might need to step back on some of the petitions that would increase taxes [for] Missourians right now.”
While revenues fell slightly in 2018, McGaugh said she is confident there will not be a major budget shortfall and that lawmakers will hammer out a compromise to provide the needed infrastructure funds, but may need to get creative in the process.
“The operating budget is proposed to be $28.3 billion in 2019, with only a third of that for general revenue. The [Missouri] Constitution mandates a minimum of 25 percent for public schools, so we have to start there. . . we’ve got to figure out a way to spread the dollars that we have most efficiently and effectively.”
In November, Missouri voters approved Amendment One, also known by its proponents as the ‘Clean Missouri Initiative’, which would create the position of State Demographer, under the umbrella of the State Audtior’s Office, to draw new lines for legislative redistricting in Missouri. Gov. Mike Parson has been said to be considering his options for challenging the newly-approved law, but supporters say any move to preempt a voter-approved constitutional amendment is non-democratic.
“First of all, I believe in listening to the will of the people, and I personally believe the people spoke in November,” McGaugh said. “I also believe that the support for Amendment One was because they were focused on diminishing the influence of lobbyists.”
While McGaugh indicated she did not intend to support the governor’s rumored desire to overturn Amendment One, she did add a caveat.
“It’s so confusing for all of us right now. I know, as a former County Clerk, if you parcel up counties, its a detriment for elections. I’m not talking about who’s getting elected, I’m talking about running a fair and honest election when there [are] so many splits in the ballot.”
McGaugh is kicking off 2019 by introducing a trio of bills on the House floor.
Click below to hear more about the bills McGaugh has pre-filed for the 100th session of the Missouri General Assembly.