He sees his role in the upcoming legislative session as tempering some of the ideas being proposed and making sure things are fair.
As an example, Senator Kevin Engler, R — Farmington mentioned an anti-whistle blower bill that’s likely to make the rounds in the upcoming 2011 session of the General Assembly that will convene Wednesday.
“They wouldn’t describe it that way,” Engler said, “but that’s what it is. That’s a big bill and some of the things are good, but some of the things need to be tempered.”
Another big bill Engler says he will be watching is worker’s compensation and the second injury fund.
“It’s broken,” Engler said. “We set up these rules and judges completely disregard it.”
That kind of uncertainty is not a plus for economic development efforts, Engler said. “They’re saying look, why do we want to come to a state where the state calls and says it wants to get more money from the employer … it’s not an easy state to get worker’s compensation and that raises the cost of doing business here.”
Engler also mentioned nonunionization efforts and project labor agreements.
“I’m not a big advocate of forcing project labor agreements down throats,” Engler said. “Prevailing wage, getting rid of that, it’s not good for union or nonunion, so that’s a tough one.”
A change in the way judges are selected is also in the air. One proposal would make Missouri’s system similar to Illinois, where all judges are elected.
“You have more participation,” Engler said, “but on the other hand, the argument is the general population have no clue if someone is a good or bad judge.”
One big question on the issue is whether it’s wise to have judges raising millions of dollars who might then have cases in court that involve people who have given substantially to their campaigns in the past.
“I don’t think we should throw the whole thing out,” Engler said.
By far the biggest issue facing lawmakers as they return to the capital for the 2011 General Assembly will be the budget. Estimates from Governor Jay Nixon’s office have pegged the deficit at somewhere between $500 and $700 million, while Speaker of the House Steven Tilley, R– Perryville has said he thinks it is more like $300 million. Regardless of which numbers you pick, the state is looking at a large deficit.
Tilley said he cut 17 percent from the operating budget for the Speaker of the House and other lawmakers have made cuts of about 10 percent to their operations. He said they will be asking every state department to look for places to save money. Even with operational savings, however, cuts to programs seem inevitable.
“I suspect it’s going to be 2,000 or more jobs,” Engler said, “and lots of cuts in education or other areas. The alternative is to raise taxes, which according to my polls is very unpopular. Fiscally, we’ve been very prudent. We’re one of a handful of states that continue to have a triple-A rating, and we will continue to be fiscally responsible.”
Renee Jean can be reached at 573-431-2010 ext. 117 or email@example.com