This afternoon the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference in the House Lounge after the opening of the legislative session in Jefferson City. Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D) and Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D) started with prepared remarks.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): Everybody, thank you, thank you all for being here today. I appreciate, uh, everyone’s time. Welcome back to, uh, session after a very brief break, um, in the news stories. Uh, here to present our legislative priorities for this year on Elvis’ seventy-ninth birthday. Representative Mayfield wanted me to mention that in case anybody was curious.
Um, our number one issue, of course, is, is Medicaid. Uh, there’s no issue that’s before us that could be any more important. Uh, we came together in a bipartisan fashion, uh, to try and lure Boeing here, um, obviously without success. But, when you look at, at what we did, both sides of the aisle, to bring that issue to the forefront in a short time and try to create jobs in this state, it shows that we can do it.
We came together to try and create eighty-five hundred jobs in this state. We did it in record time. There is no reason whatsoever that we cannot create twenty-four thousand jobs in this state in the same manner. We’ve left twenty-four thousand jobs on the table last year. We cannot afford to do it again.
We support the Governor’s proposal to fully fund the foundation formula by twenty-seventeen. It’s been a long time coming and it’s something that we’ve needed across the state. We talk a lot about education reform in this state – it’s never about making sure that our schools and our high, higher education facilities are fully funded as they should be. That is one of our top goals for this year, is to support the Governor’s agenda.
We support a responsible fix to the school transfer issue. Uh, everyone knows that that is a, a huge problem. We think there are absolutely responsible ways that we can work together to get this issue fixed. What we don’t think is that we should be putting some of the majority’s extreme school reform issues tied to that legislation. We need to fix what’s going on right now and leave the crazy stuff to another day.
Um, we also support a raising of the Missouri minimum wage. We think that that is important to, as we talk about job creation to bring the people at the bottom of the social layer to create a living wage so that they can provide for their families to begin to crawl out of poverty. And when you talk about the problems in some of our schools what people never talk about is the problems at home. The problems of people trying to feed their families, to make sure that there’s a place for their kids to sleep at night, and get them to school on time. You can’t do that on minimum wage. Representative Roorda, um, has a bill that he’s working on to do that.
We are going to present a bill to found, uh, to, uh, implement the school transfer issue. Uh, Representative Carpenter is going to, has a bill that he’s been working on the entire interim, uh, to our tax proposal, not a tax proposal that will drive an eight hundred million dollar hole in the state budget and one that will create tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations, but one that will give tax relief to ninety-eight percent of Missourians and will be revenue neutral.
We think that all of these things can be accomplished in this session and there’s no reason that we can’t tackle these.
Um, I do want to say that I was a little disappointed in the lack of bipartisan tone that came out of the Speaker’s, um, announcement today on the floor, on his priorities. Uh, we came together in December and look what we got done for the state. Maybe it didn’t work out, but that’s what the citizens of this state expect. They expect us to work past our differences and create jobs. The speaker said that we need new, fresh ideas. None of those ideas were new. They were the same ones, over and over, again. All of the crazy stuff that was, uh, brought to the floor last year – Sharia law, uh, drones – all that stuff’s been filed again. It’s nothing new. There’s no new ways to create jobs in this state. The Speaker wants to talk about right to work. It’s amazing then that Express Scripts is adding fifteen hundred jobs in St. Louis, that Boeing is adding several hundred jobs, Ford is adding, um, a thousand jobs, General Motors is adding jobs. We’ve created forty-four thousand new jobs from January twenty-thirteen to now. Forty-four thousand. Our unemployment rate, while at six point one percent is still unacceptable, it had been below the national average for, I think, fifty-one consecutive months. We’re doing something right. Right to work is not gonna help anybody in this state, except to lower wages for the people of Missouri.
So, my Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty has, uh, something to say and then we’ll take questions.
Assistant Minority Floor Leader Gail McCann Beatty (D): Good afternoon. So as we go into the two thousand -fourteen session two of our top priorities will be Medicaid expansion and the school transfer law.
The expansion of Medicaid represents the largest jobs creation bill that we have seen in generations, creating twenty-four thousand jobs in the health care industry alone. Our tax dollars are already going out to other states. It’s now time for us to bring our tax dollars back home.
School transfers are, are bankrupting school districts in the St. Louis area and the Kansas City School District is destined for that same fate. We must make, we must make common sense changes to our school transfer law. Our Missouri students are entitled to a quality education regardless where they live. We won’t improve our struggling districts by putting them in bankruptcy. We must be careful not to hurt the receiving districts. These districts should have the ability to set reasonable class limits to avoid overcrowding. We must act now. We cannot hold our children hostage to advance personal agendas. We have an obligation to Missourians to move forward without getting bogged down in unrelated issues in pushing personal agendas.
Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel (D): And one more thing, I did forget one of our proposals. I’m sorry, I got the page turned. Um, Representative McManus is, uh, leading our effort on ethics reform this year. It is not the same bill that we proposed last year. It is a much stronger version, uh, one that we think is, is desperately needed in the state. And he will be, he will be filing that probably either this week or the beginning of next week.