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With just days remaining in the legislative session, the state capitol is abuzz with activity. Meanwhile, at the federal level, lawmakers are also facing tight deadlines on key business issues. Check out the update below to see where a few of the Chamber's top priorities stand.
The state bonding bill authorizing up to $600 million in new bonding authority by the state has passed the House and Senate and now awaits the Governor's signature. The bill includes project lists for state buildings and higher education buildings around the state. With the approval of this legislation, southwest Missouri stands to gain around $22 million dollars for urgent capital improvement projects for the region's higher education institutions including Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College. The Chamber appreciates the efforts of Sen. Mike Parson and Rep. Lincoln Hough who have both championed bonding legislation.
Right To Work
Right to Work can be a defining factor as businesses consider where to locate or expand facilities. Many of Missouri’s neighbors have passed legislation granting employees the freedom to choose whether or not to pay dues to a union, and have benefited economically as a result. SB 127, sponsored by Sen. Dan Brown (R-Rolla), would send the decision to make Missouri a Right to Work state to voters and has been set on the Senate Calendar for debate. Earlier in the session the House approved similar legislation, HB 116, sponsored by Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) by a vote of 91-64. HB 116 remains in the Senate Small Business, Insurance & Industry Committee.
Transportation funding is at a critical point. Without a funding solution, MoDOT will no longer be able to meet their federal match and will lose $165 million to other states. This number increases to $400 million in 2018. Already, MoDOT has suspended the cost-share program which helped fund many needed projects around the Ozarks, and if their funding drops below $325 million as it is expected to in 2017, they will be forced to implement Missouri’s 325 System which will only maintain about 8,000 miles of road. The remaining 26,000 miles will still receive some maintenance, but are expected to deteriorate unless funds can be established for more aggressive upkeep. Earlier this week, MoDOT was forced to close a bridge in the Kansas City region which impacted thousands of drivers in the area. Senator Doug Libla (R- Poplar Bluff) proposed a solution, SB 540, that would have a minimal annual cost for an individual taxpayer but would have a significant impact on our state’s transportation system and allow Missouri to continue to receive a federal match.
The Senate initially voted 18-13 to pass SB 540, but it requires additional action, and with just days remaining the measure remains stalled in the Senate.
Federal Transportation Funding
With three weeks remaining in the current federal transportation funding bill, Congress must act soon to provide stability to the industry in the upcoming planning and construction season. The Obama administration sent Congress a $478 billion six year funding plan, the first long-term legislation in over a year. Given the complexity of a long-term transportation bill, Congress will likely vote on a short-term extension to allow time to work towards a long-term funding solution.
Export-Import Bank Reauthorization
The U.S. Export-Import Bank is set to expire in July if Congress does not vote for a reauthorization of its funding. The Ex-Im Bank, which serves U.S. exporters and the buyers of U.S. goods, is targeted for closure by some who say it provides "welfare" for big business.
In actuality, the Ex-Im Bank is a federal agency that helps U.S. companies, including small and medium-sized businesses, sell their products overseas, create jobs for American workers, and grow the U.S. economy. Nearly 90 percent of all Ex-Im’s transactions supported U.S. small businesses in 2014. Ex-Im support is often required to secure commercial financing or even to qualify to bid on overseas projects. Without Ex-Im, small businesses will lose a competitive advantage to overseas competitors, many of which are backed by export credit agencies much larger than the U.S. Ex-Im Bank. Additionally, last year Ex-Im Bank sent $674.7 million to the U.S. Treasury as surplus for American taxpayers and over the past two decades, Ex-Im has generated a surplus of nearly $7 billion.