State budget, economic development discussed at First Friday Coffee

Friday, September 4, 2009

Balancing a budget is the most pressing issue in the Missouri legislature, state Rep. Steve Tilley said Friday.

"We have a responsibility to pass a balanced budget," Tilley told businessmen and women during the monthly Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce's First Coffee. "We expect each and every family to live within their means and we expect the legislature to do the same."

Tilley and state Sen. Kevin Engler discussed a variety of issues facing the state legislature during the chamber's annual legislative update.

In addition to the budget, Tilley and Engler said that economic development will be a key to stimulating growth within the state. Missouri's July unemployment rate stands at 9.3 percent, an increase from 6.4 percent in July 2008. The Associated Press reported that unemployment is projected to rise above 10 percent throughout 2010.

A recent economic forecast study by Creighton University in Creighton, Neb., said that out of nine states in the Mid-America region, Missouri ranked above average. For the second consecutive month the state scored above average for economic growth.

Tilley said the Quality Jobs Program, which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Nixon on June 4, is a key component to encouraging small business. The legislation increases the cap on tax credits for business each year from $60 million to $80 million, provides funding for pre-employment training and increases the cap on tax credits for large-scale development from $15 million to $25 million.

"The only way to get out of a tough time is to work," Tilley said.

Engler added that the legislature would not raise taxes in the next three years. He said a tax increase would hurt job growth.

"Profit is what drives the economy," Engler said. "When you lose sight of that fact you'll always be in a constant economic crisis."

The third issue of importance is quality education, Engler said. He said those who drop out of school or score poorly on tests affect the economic future of the state.

"If we can't solve the problem now, we'll pay for it later," Engler said. "Even though you may not live in a district that underperforms, it affects all of you because you can't expect companies to locate here if you don't have a quality educated work force."

During his introduction of both legislators, Chamber of commerce president and CEO John Mehner said that while a constituent may not agree with the views and voting record of their state legislators, their representatives "take that responsibility very seriously and are wanting to do the right thing for you."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

Pertinent address:

1333 N. Sprigg St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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