About 500 people attended the Chamber's annual State of the State event with Gov. Mike Parson on Aug. 2, 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay Bowers)

In his annual address Tuesday to members of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, Gov. Mike Parson touted major state investments in workforce development, education and infrastructure initiatives, while also calling for permanent tax cuts for Missourians. 

At the end of this year’s legislative session, Parson said he would call for a special session to reduce the top tax rate from 5.4% for residents with an income of $8,700 or more. 

“We want to reduce the top individual income tax rate to 4.8,” Parson told about 500 people who attended the Chamber luncheon at the Great Southern Bank Arena on the Missouri State University campus.

Parson said the state’s economy has grown during his time in office. That’s despite his tenure coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, which he said is now in the state’s rearview, and numerous other crises. Recently, Parson said, he signed emergency declarations for drought and flooding relief two days apart from one another. Still, the state has balanced the budget, Parson said, and can return money to Missourians’ paychecks, “where it belongs.” 

In a brief session with reporters after the speech, Parson said he believes he has the legislative support to pass the tax cut because it is a measure aimed at “the everyday worker” rather than corporations. 

“With the money that we have, the general revenue that we have, we can easily afford it,” Parson said. “And again, this is a small step in trying to make sure we get a little relief for people out there.”

Along with calling for the tax cut at the conclusion of his speech, Parson highlighted numerous priorities for state dollars. Among the subjects were: 

Teacher pay. Parson thanked legislators for approving a measure to allow school districts to partner with the state to boost base pay for teachers to $38,000 from $25,000. 

“We can’t offer our kids a quality education without quality educators in Missouri classrooms,” Parson said. “At the start of the year, we ranked dead last in the United States — 50th in teacher pay in the United States.” 

Now, he said, Missouri ranks in the high 30s in the U.S. on base teacher pay. He said it’s a step in the right direction, and that nearly 360 school districts across the state have applied to take part in the program since it went into effect a few weeks ago. (Starting pay at Springfield Public Schools is already $41,544.)  

Child care. Saying that a lack of child care is a barrier for parents to enter the workforce or pursue an education, Parson said the state would be investing $1 billion to help fund child care initiatives. It will be the largest investment in state history in the issue. He said that part of the money “will go to businesses now — private businesses — that can join with other businesses to create your own day care facilities, child care facilities.” The audience applauded. 

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. Parson highlighted a $400 million investment in broadband infrastructure and $600 million for stormwater, wastewater and water systems.

“We know this may not be a glamorous topic, but this is critical for communities big and small,” he said. 

He also pointed to the recent announcement of a $10 billion Missouri Department of Transportation improvement plan to make improvements to the state’s 34,000 miles of roads and 10,000-plus bridges. 

“The past session produced a budget that makes historic investments in Missouri’s infrastructure,” Parson said. “This means smoother roads, safer intersections, updated bridges and greater broadband access for Missourians across the state.”

Missouri’s Fast Track program. Thanking Sen. Lincoln Hough by name on Primary Election Day, Parson said he was grateful for the extension and enhancement of the state’s Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, which offers free tuition to adults in search of certificates or degrees in high-need areas. Hough worked to change the nature of the program from being a forgivable loan to becoming an education grant.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson