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Potholes in Missouri roads know no friends—or political parties. “Democratic tires and Republican tires hit potholes equally,” said Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, explaining that transportation funding can be an issue of common ground for lawmakers in both parties.
Koster was the featured guest June 15 during the second installment of the Chamber’s Public Policy Speaker Series, sponsored by Lathrop & Gage, LLP. During his conversation with Chamber president Matt Morrow, Koster discussed issues that impact all Missouri businesses including transportation funding, economic development and educating tomorrow’s workforce.
Speaking on transportation, the Attorney General noted that state government has a responsibility to invest in our infrastructure. Missouri has the seventh largest road system in the U.S., but funding lags behind. “I know this problem can be solved in a conservative state like Missouri because the last time, it was solved by the most conservative man in the state, John Ashcroft,” Koster said. Ashcroft served as Missouri governor 1985-1993. Koster said he believes citizens and organizations across the state, including those in rural Missouri, “are ready to move on this.”
As the conversation shifted to the work done by his office, Koster, who is now serving in his second term as Missouri’s attorney general, told business and professional leaders one of the notable lawsuits his office has brought relates to the “robo-signing” of legal documents in the wake of the mortgage meltdown. Koster’s office obtained a $356,737 judgment against a Florida company in 2015, following a three-year legal battle. In February, his office won a settlement with mortgage lender HSBC that affects more than 2,600 Missourians who lost their homes to foreclosure.
The attorney general’s office is the largest general counsel organization in Missouri with 350 employees.
On government’s role in keeping Missouri’s economy competitive, Koster said the state should focus on “deal-closing funds” like those in Texas and other states. He noted as an example that Indiana invests five times more money in start-ups than Missouri.
Neighboring states also edge out Missouri when it comes to funding early childhood education. When asked what the future looks like regarding funding early childhood education, Koster’s projection was bleak: “I don’t know how in Jeff City they’ll be able to fund early childhood education when they continually struggle to fully fund the K-12 foundation formula.” Koster suggested municipalities may fare better enacting their own programs rather than waiting for Jefferson City to take action.
The Chamber’s Public Policy Speaker Series works to connect business and community leaders with local, state and federal elected officials. Lathrop & Gage, LLP serves as the 2016 presenting sponsor for the series and Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care was the spotlight sponsor of the June 15 installment. Watch for an announcement about our next Public Policy Speaker Series installment this fall.