Missouri Gov. Mike Parson says stability has been key to his unexpected term leading the state and has led to successes in the past 20 months.
Parson became governor in the summer of 2018 after his predecessor, Eric Greitens, resigned after a sex scandal and felony indictment for invasion of privacy.
The governor spoke about his accomplishments Thursday when he invited members of the Missouri Press Association to the governor’s mansion for their annul luncheon.
“We were able to make the office available,” Parson said. “The worst thing you can say is no comment. Somebody’s going to say something, so it’s best to get things out early.”
Harkening back to his days as a sheriff, Parson added the relationships and trust with the media are important for officials and the public.
“We all want stories to be accurate,” he said. “Here are the facts. People can make decisions for themselves. They are starving for that.”
2019 Big Year
The governor said 2019 was a big year for Missouri and he stayed focused on workforce development and infrastructure.
“Moving the USDA out of Washington, D.C., to the heartland was a hard move,” Parson said. “But, when you sit down with reasonable people solutions can be found.”
Parson explained Missouri was one of 10 states in the running for the USDA relocation and joining forces with the state of Kansas was paramount.
“By combining efforts we were able to beat out states like Indiana, the home of the vice president and other cabinet members,” he said. “We were even told Missouri was picked because of our willingness to cooperate regionally. I’m just glad they picked our side of the border.”
In addition to the federal USDA relocation, Missouri also was selected for the expansion of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in St. Louis and General Motors pledged a $1.5 billion investment into plants in Missouri.
“One year ago, Missouri was ranked 25th in site locations,” Parson said. “We’ve moved up 10 spots to 15th in the nation. More people are taking a look at Missouri.”
When asked his thoughts on Medicaid expansion in Missouri, Parson said it would be a major hardship on the state budget despite what many polls are showing.
“First off, you can make a poll say anything you want,” he said. “Medicaid is a difficult system to understand and this would have huge implications on the state of Missouri.”
Parson explained Missouri is currently No. 5 in the nation for residents on Medicaid, which makes up 24 percent of the annual state budget.
“One million people out of a population of 6 million are on Medicaid now,” he said. “It will cost the state $200 million more than last year. If you expand Medicaid, you’re going to have to make cuts somewhere else.”
Parson also warned every time a government program expands or is created, it never stays the same size and never goes away.
“The perfect example is the federal Department of Energy created in the 1970s under President Carter,” he said. “It was created with 200 employees. Now it has 200,000.”
Parson also touched briefly on the subject of violent crime.
In recent months, he has been meeting frequently with the mayors of Kansas City and St. Louis regarding gun violence in those cities.
“The violent crime issue affects us all over the state,” Parson said. “If something is going to be done, it needs to be through the legislative body.”
He added he supports a bill filed in the Senate by President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and a similar bill in the House which would allow St. Louis police officers to reside outside of the city limits.
“They are down 150 to 200 officers in St. Louis,” Parson said. “They have to reach outside, that’s the right thing to do.”
When asked in a follow-up from The Missourian if the state Legislature should take back control of the St. Louis Police Department, Parson did not comment.