JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson is calling the 2023 legislative session a winner, but he said there is one topic that wasn’t address that could lead lawmakers to coming back to the statehouse later this year.
Dozens of bills are now sitting on Parson’s desk waiting for his signature. Legislation that affects transgender Missourians, widens Interstate 70 and extends postpartum care for new moms, but there’s one big issue that did not pass the finish line this session and it’s costing the state more than a billion dollars.
“One of the things we were really disappointed that we didn’t get done, childcare, that was a big issue to us because we know that’s a problem in the state to keep people in the workforce,” Parson said.
Back in January, Parson asked lawmakers during his annual State of the State address to approve three new childcare tax credit programs for providers and businesses. The tax credits were to help providers improve facilities, support employers who support their workers with childcare assistance and allow more childcare workers to receive a pay increase.
“We know that 50% of this state are in what we call desert areas that don’t have enough childcare and two, it’s expensive, especially the younger the child is, it’s a difficult time,” Parson said.
According to the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the state’s economy lost out on $1.3 billion last year due to a lack of childcare. Democrats say it was important legislation for lawmakers to pass, and they were onboard with making sure that happened.
“We worked with the governor’s office all session on that,” Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said. “It’s something that is impactful for single moms and mothers all across this state, parents in general.”
When asked if Parson would call a special session regarding childcare, he said it’s too early to tell.
“I would have to weigh that out because it’s something I want, and then I have to really be honest with it and say is it up to a special session to do that or is it something that needs to be done in regular session,” Parson said. “I think it was a bipartisan issue, I just think it didn’t make it across the finish line because of all the other stuff that happened.”
Overall, the governor is claiming victory for the legislation that made it to his desk, including a $51 billion budget that appropriates nearly $3 billion to widen I-70 from Wentzville to Blue Springs.
“That’s something you never dream about having the opportunity to do, as a governor,” Parson said. “We’ve been talking about that for decades, but now you’re going to see the real deal.”
Parson did say, not everything in the record-setting budget will receive his approval.
“There will be a lot of items that won’t make it across the finish line,” Parson said. “I might as well say that up front. There were about 400 items added into there that were just special projects for lobbyists and legislators, and we have to clean that up.”
The governor said if he calls the General Assembly back for a special session, it would be around veto session, which takes place in the middle of September.
In total, 43 policy bills were sent to the governor’s desk, one of the lowest amounts in recent history. Parson said his office is currently reviewing the legislation sent to his desk, and he plans to start signing bills in the coming weeks.