Missouri speaker links economy, energy, education in visit to region

Posted: Dec. 13, 2012 7:32 pm Updated: Jan. 3, 2013 8:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

PALMYRA, Mo. -- Economic development, energy issues and education funding and reform were touted as the "Triple E Plan" by Missouri Speaker of the House Tim Jones during a visit to Heimer Construction on Thursday.

Jones, a Republican from Eureka, was wrapping up a 21-city tour of the state. He said the Republican supermajority in Jefferson City will work on the three issues that he believes are interrelated.

"Economic development for job creation is our No. 1 priority," Jones said.

"That's any piece of legislation that helps Missouri businesses remain here and grow, or encourages businesses to come to Missouri set up a footprint here and start hiring workers and providing jobs."

He then tied energy with jobs, through both coal mining within the state and a plan for Ameren to team up with Westinghouse in Callaway County to build modular nuclear reactors. Jones said developing countries want to buy 100 of the units at $1 billion each.

Jones said a U.S. Department of Energy grant announced last month went to another nuclear proposal in a different state. However, the Ameren-Westinghouse project could be in the running for a second round of grants that could create the nuclear unit manufacturing site.

Education also is an economic issue as students learn obtain the skills needed for modern jobs.

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling this year has hurt the state in competing for jobs, health care facilities and personnel, Jones said. The high court ruled it unconstitutional for the state to limit the size of financial settlements for pain and suffering under medical malpractice cases. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that caps were constitutional in October.

"We've got eight bordering states where they have better protection" for hospitals and health care professionals from massive settlements, Jones said.

While the state seeks to improve its business climate, Jones said the Legislature also needs to make sure tax credit programs are used wisely. The state has 60 tax credit programs that give employers incentives to locate in Missouri or add workers in the state. A proposal that would reduce the number of tax credits may come up for review this year. Jones wants to retain successful programs while maintaining stable revenue for the state.

State Rep. Craig Redmon, R-Canton, said the General Assembly also may have to consider emergency measures if the drought continues into next year.

"If we have another summer like we did last summer, water is going to be at a premium," Redmon said.

This year, Mark Twain Lake was releasing water in order to keep up river levels, but the lake also supplies water for 60,000 people. Redmon said if there is not sufficient rainfall, there are lots of water districts that will have to prioritize where water should be used.

State Rep. Lindell Shumake, R-Hannibal, expects "great things" from the Republican caucus this year.

It takes 109 House members to represent a supermajority, which can override gubernatorial vetoes. Jones said there will be 110 Republicans in the House. That will allow little room for error on important issues.

Republicans plan to caucus Monday. The Legislature will hold its first session of 2013 on Jan. 9.