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Missouri Gov. Mike Parson Defends Infrastructure Plan, Wants To End The Incentives War With Kansas

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson was a guest on KCUR's Up to Date with Steve Kraske on Thursday.

A little more than a week after his first State of the State address, in which he outlined his focus on workforce development and infrastructure, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson expanded on those ideas during an interview with Steve Kraske on KCUR’s Up to Date. Here are a few of the highlights:

On infrastructure

Parson said he doesn’t plan to seek another tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements, and is instead focused on his proposal to borrow $350 million for bridge repairs.

‘“You just can't keep kicking this can down the road, I mean the problem exists,” Parson said. “The bridges were talking about fixing are not rails and putting on a pretty skirt on the outside of it. What this is talking about doing is actually replacing bridges that are totally need to be totally replaced or in drastic need to repair.”

Most of the proposed projectsare in rural areas of the state, but Parson said that doesn’t mean projects in urban areas are being left out, adding that by paying for the smaller bridges, it'll free up money for larger projects.

“We knew all along how that was going to look on the map, but at the end of it, hopefully we can kind of let everybody know that, if you listen to the plan, Kansas City, St Louis, the urban areas are going to be just fine because your projects are all going to move up the list,” Parson said.

He now has to sell his plan to state legislators, some of whom are not rushing to embrace the proposal.

“This is, not the fix to transportation needs what the governor proposed, but it is a bold idea that he's brought forth that’s worthy of discussion,” Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, and chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee said on KCUR’s Statehouse Blend Missouri. “And I look forward to that discussion.”

On workforce development

Parson touted his proposal to set aside $22 million to help provide skills training to workers over the age of 25.

“We want to give them the skills, we kind of skill them up, you know, to where they can move up the ladder a little bit to have those better jobs that we know that demand’s out there,” Parson said. “And that could be in health care, it could be in IT, it could be as simple as labor or whether you're a plumber, whether you're an electrician.”

He said the No. 1 priority for most businesses in picking a location is the quality of the workforce.

“If they start looking at you and say, ‘Well, you guys are really not doing anything in this area, why do we think you are going to expand that?’ ... that's why this workforce development piece, I think, is just crucial for the state of Missouri to draw businesses here."

On the incentives war with Kansas

Parson said he wants to see an end to the economic border war between Missouri and Kansas.

The Kansas City Star reported that over the past 10 years, the states have spent more than $300 million in incentives to lure companies across their respective borders. Parson intends to meet with Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to discuss the issue.

“Whether you're in Kansas, Missouri, and you're really just walking people across the street for better terms, you're really not create any more new jobs in the area,” Parson said. “This is something we got to work out, this is not good for either state to be doing it this way and I think that money could be used a lot more efficiently, a lot of different areas.”

Republican Sen. Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit has introduced a bill that would ban companies from Douglas, Johnson, Miami or Wyandotte counties in Kansas from using state incentives to move to border counties in Missouri, as long as Kansas does the same thing.

Missouri lawmakers have passed similar legislation before, but Kansas has not. Kelly told the Star they are reviewing the legislation.

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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