In an op-ed piece in the Sunday Post-Dispatch, state rep. Chris Kelly (D-Columbia) used a bit of our history to impress readers with what we can do to put Missourians back to work despite these tough economic times:
In 1982, then-Gov. Christopher “Kit” Bond, working in a bipartisan manner with Democratic legislative leaders, passed and sent to the people a proposed $700 million building bond issue to construct and repair needed major buildings at our colleges and universities and at other state buildings.
The people of Missouri agreed and voted to use some of their taxes to pay off this bond issue. Thousands of Missourians went to work in dozens of trades, constructing needed classrooms, laboratories and hospitals. Those facilities still serve Missouri 27 years later. Now, Gov. Jay Nixon and the Legislature should follow the example of Gov. Bond and send a fifth state building bond to the voters for approval.
Because large scale construction is an excellent way to put numbers of people to work.
Because interest rates are at rock bottom.
Because the construction industry, hungry for work, will offer favorable bids.
A large construction bond issue is, by order of magnitude, the biggest jobs bill the governor and Legislature could enact. Construction of the buildings would employ thousands of workers in every craft all over the state. The facilities, once built, would require the employment of more people, and the students educated at the facilities would bolster our economy with their technical and scientific skills.
…[T]he work that will be done is vital to the future of Missouri. Our colleges and universities have massive backlogs of needed new facilities, mostly to teach the hard sciences.
Kelly says that he and Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, sponsored a bill last year for a $750 million bond issue. It passed in the House overwhelmingly and looked set to do the same in the Senate until a few Republican senators threatened a filibuster. Nixon neither supported nor opposed it. We need for the fate of the bill to turn out differently this year:
If [we] act quickly, we can send a fifth state building bond to the people for their approval this coming April, and we can actually pass the necessary appropriation bills in the spring, getting people to work by summer.
I fear, as do many market observers, that our window of low interest rates may soon pass. It will be a shame if we wait until interest rates rise and then say, “Oh gee. We missed our chance.” Voters make the final decision; it is their money. They should be allowed to decide to dedicate their tax money to build Missouri’s future.
If those who agree call the governor and legislators and ask them to act now on the state bonding program, we can make real progress in Missouri.
Chris, I’m gonna write my rep, Ted Hoskins, and my senator, Rita Days about this issue and include a link to your op-ed piece. Those of you who see the sense of Kelly’s plan can easily find out who your state rep and senator are if you don’t already know and get their contact info. Those of you who live in a Republican Senate district are, for once, well placed to do the most good. Take advantage of your opportunity.