Down the home stretch in the Missouri governor’s race, contender Nicole Galloway holds a narrow lead – financially speaking – over incumbent Mike Parson.
The state auditor’s Galloway for Missouri campaign has reported $6.88 million in receipts versus Gov. Parson’s $5.68 million, according to Missouri Ethics Commission filings through the third quarter. In the most recent filing period, Oct. 1-22, Galloway’s tally was $835,015 while Parson’s came in at $597,452.
But dollars don’t always equate to votes. The issues matter. Springfield Business Journal asked each candidate to respond to three issues: COVID-19, workforce and educational development, and infrastructure.
It’s the first governor’s election cycle for Parson, who was sworn into the office by the Missouri Supreme Court in mid-2018 following Eric Greitens’ resignation.
Since the pandemic hit the Springfield area in the spring, there has been a call to action from local and state leaders when it comes to fighting the virus.
Parson said the plan he put into place early on is the one he would continue to follow. Dubbed the Show Me Strong Recovery Plan, it includes widely available testing, accessible supply of personal protective equipment through the Google PPE Marketplace, and facilitating economic relief grants.
He cited the plan’s track record: “We took the fatality rate from almost 8% down to 1.4%; makes a real difference in people’s lives,” he said. “We went from testing 2,000 a week in this state to 125,000.”
Throughout the pandemic, Parson said he has been transparent on his stance regarding a masking rule. And while Springfield Mayor Ken McClure wrote a letter to Parson asking for a statewide masking mandate, Parson is against the idea.
“Everybody needs to do their social distancing, the 15 minutes, the mask, keeping your hands clean,” said Parson, who favors personal responsibility over mandates. “But to really prevent the virus, it’s all three.”
In addition, Parson said he would not require everyone to get a vaccine, once it is available.
“Do we really want one person in the state of Missouri to say that every man, every woman, every child has to take a vaccine?” Parson said. “I would never ask a parent to put something in their children’s body without their saying. I don’t think any elected official should use their powers to do that.”
But Galloway said a reset is needed when it comes to the strategy to fight the virus. Hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases are on the rise, she said. According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department recovery dashboard, there has been 9,656 COVID-19 cases and 141 deaths as of Oct. 28. In agreement with McClure, she would require Missourians to wear masks.
“It’s a science-backed way, data-backed way to contain part of the virus,” Galloway said.
Her strategy to stop the spread of the virus is based on containment, mitigation and science, she said. The candidates agree testing is key to fighting the virus, but Galloway would like to see more universal rapid testing and a stronger contact tracing program. She said the virus does not respect county lines.
“We need a leader who acts with urgency to get this under control so we can get our lives back,” said Galloway. “Fighting this virus should not be shuttering businesses, closed schools and loss of income.”
Workforce and education
Between income tax cuts, funding for K-12 education and investment in community colleges and training facilities, Parson said he wants to continue the work his office is already doing which is workforce development – a key area of emphasis for his administration.
Over the summer, in Parson’s virtual State of the State address held at Missouri State University, he cited several recent economic development wins for the state – and two were projects in Marshfield. An $8 million expansion of Armstrong World Industries Inc. adding 130 jobs and a $4.9 million investment in the Tyler Pipe Co. plant to bring on another 75 jobs, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
While the pandemic resulted in roughly 365,000 people in the state of Missouri to be on unemployment at one point, Parson said he is proud of the way the state is progressing.
“As of today, over 62%, well over 200,000 of those people are back in the workforce,” said Parson.
Galloway said her first step regarding workforce development and education would be to get the pandemic under control. She said state and local budgets are hurting due to its effects.
“The governor cut about $250 million from K-12 education this year,” said Galloway, “and $100 million from higher education.”
The governor later issued nearly $100 million for K-12 and higher education, through a mix of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds and state general revenue. Parson cited better than expected unemployment numbers and state revenue collections.
Galloway said the unemployment rate is low right now – 4.9% in September, the most recent month available – because people have given up on looking for work. According to the Missouri Department of Labor, there were 8,709 unemployment claims for the week ending on Oct. 17 compared with 101,722 claims the week ending April 11.
“Almost 70,000 Missourians have left the labor market,” said Galloway. “That is unacceptable.”
After containing the virus, she would like to help small businesses. She has proposed to create an economic relief advisory council. The council would consist of small businesses, labor organizations and big businesses.
Another key area of emphasis for the Parson administration has been infrastructure.
He said he wants to continue the ongoing work, such as designating money toward expanding the river ports in the state. Parson said there is more infrastructure work that needs to be done, but he is pleased with what has been completed.
“We did a bonding bill last year, over 250 new bridges across the state of Missouri,” said Parson.
Galloway said there are significant infrastructure needs statewide. She also cited government bonds as a solution.
Additionally, she’d like to cap the timely filing discount businesses receive on taxes. In an opinion piece published in the Springfield News-Leader, Galloway wrote that businesses in Missouri received bonuses amounting to over $120 million the last two fiscal years just for turning in the sales taxes they owed on time. She calls it “Missouri’s Big Business Bonus.”
In Galloway’s interview with SBJ, she said capping the discount would protect small business and allocate the money for state needs.
“If you talk to the average taxpayer, they have no idea. They would think if you paid a dollar in sales tax, then the dollar in sales tax would be going right back into the government to the things they had voted on – for infrastructure, for public safety, etc.,” Galloway said. “But instead, it’s a giveaway that provides no benefit to them. I would like to close those loopholes.”
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