ST. LOUIS - Missouri's Republican-dominated Senate did something unexpected recently during the legislative special session. With strong bipartisan support, it passed a 'Made in Missouri' jobs package, a tax credit reform and economic development bill.
If it passes the House, the jobs package would create investments in Missouri's exporting infrastructure, boost industry and create thousands of jobs, especially for truck drivers, electricians, laborers, pipe fitters, machinists and construction workers - many of which would be good paying, union jobs.
Part of the package would stimulate data-center construction, possibly in the Kansas City, Mo., area, which is especially important as it would likely drive-up wages in neighboring Kansas, and create incentives for area employers to keep jobs here in Missouri.
Additionally, the package would help bring science and technology companies to the state, not only generating 21st century tech jobs, but also generating hard-hat construction jobs. The Made in Missouri package would also strengthen current job-training programs for unemployed workers, making sure Missouri workers have the skills to compete in a modern workforce.
Also, other legislation currently being debated would possibly make Lambert-St. Louis International Airport a major international cargo hub catering to trade with China, potentially creating over 10,000 additional jobs.
Missouri currently has an 8.8 percent unemployment rate. So any bipartisan legislation that helps bring jobs to the Show-Me State would be a welcomed change, especially in a state that saw very little bipartisanship during the spring legislative session.
In fact, the spring legislative session instead saw attacks on workers' rights through so-called "right-to-work" legislation, deceptively titled "paycheck protection," and attacks on Missouri's minimum wage. Adding insult to injury, some right-wing Republicans even wanted to repeal our child labor laws, while making workplace discrimination more difficult to prosecute.
As the recession drags on, and fears of a double-dip persist, a jobs package is more important now than ever.
Since the recession started, poverty has increased for all Missourians. Families with children under 18, and particularly young families with children under the age of 5, have been particularly hard hit, with family poverty rates of 17.5% and 21.6% respectively. As a result, more than 1 in 5 Missouri children now live in poverty.
The current median household income in Missouri has fallen to $44,301 and 27.8% of Missouri households now make less than $25,000.
In addition, due to budget cuts thousands of state workers have been laid off over the past few years. As a result, vital social services that the unemployed and working poor desperately need have become harder and harder to get.
Unfortunately though, as of this writing the right-wing Republican-dominated Missouri House had yet to agree to the Senate's jobs package, and many fear the legislative special session may end after just three weeks, with very little to show for it - besides a $25,000-a-day cost to taxpayers.
Senate President Pro Tem Robert Mayer told reporters Wednesday, September 21, that the special session was "on life support."
This is just another example of crass disregard for working families. The right-wing Republican and tea party folks need to get the message: We want jobs!
Hopefully, come November 2012, they'll get the message loud and clear.