Christmas and New Year’s Day are two of my favorite holidays.  At this time of year, we have the opportunity to not only reflect on what we have done in the past year, but more importantly, to think about what we can do in the coming year with the gifts that God has given us.  In this column even though I could easily focus on the troubles we’ve faced, it just doesn’t seem right in this holiday season to dwell on past disappointments.  It is the time of rebirth, new beginnings, and new opportunities.  So, I’ll  try to keep this column positive and focus on how we can use God’s many blessings to make things better in the coming year.
COVID vaccines are now being brought to Missouri, and I think will help reduce not only COVID risks but should reduce COVID fears across the state and country.  
In the past year, Missouri’s unemployment rate went from a record low to something not so good.  The service industries, such as tourism and restaurant, were among those hardest hit but are expected to start recovering.     Because it will take a while for employment rates to jump back up, the state’s “consensus” budget estimates for the next 18 months is conservatively expected to be approximately 4.5 % down, but again recovering, although slowly. This will give us the opportunity in Missouri to focus on budget priorities that are the most important.
As mentioned before in this column, we must try and predict economic twists and turns over the next 18 months because the budget year that we are now planning for runs from July 1, 2021 through June, 2022.  Ending budget discussions on a positive note, our state revenue is up at this moment in time about 1% over last year before COVID struck our economy, and that’s something we can be thankful for.  
This past week, the House Republicans met for our annual planning meeting at the Capitol.  It was great to meet again and start working with some of our new state reps from southern Missouri including Travis Smith, Bennie Cook, and Ron Copeland.  I think they will all be fantastic additions to state government bringing common sense ideas and practical lifetime experiences to the table.  I also look forward to working with Karla Eslinger as she moves from the Missouri House to the Missouri Senate.   
Also at the planning meeting, we discussed the need to both reduce tax burdens in this state and to improve our state tax code.  I agree.  One new idea is to waive (or exempt) our state teachers from paying any state income tax.  Zero state income taxes for teachers, I like the idea.  Educating and supporting our kids has always been (and must always be) a priority of state and local government.   It could be a big help to our teachers and a great start in the overhaul of our state tax code and possibly the first step in eliminating income taxes for everyone in the state, but as always, the proof will be in the pudding and in the final language of any bill as politics and bills can go crazy.  I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts.
At the national level we’ve all heard talk and attacks on our 2nd Amendment rights.   In Jefferson City we have heard those same threats, and we must and will respond.  I’ve helped draft two  amendment protection bills, and our new Missouri Speaker of the House, Rob Vescovo, is expected to add his support to these bills in the coming year.   I strongly believe that gun ownership, and the right to hunt and fish, are clearly part of our fundamental constitional rights and that we must continue to fight for our fundamental rights in this country.  It is my top priority.  Speaker Vescovo has already shown strong leadership, and I look forward to working with him in protecting our way of life.  
To close, I also want to recognize and thank two other state representatives and one state senator that have termed out of their offices.  Jeff Pogue, Robert Ross, and Mike Cunningham have completed their terms.  I salute all of them for their dedicated service and wish them God’s continued blessings.   
And from my family to yours, Merry Christmas to you and may all have a very blessed new year.   Thank you for allowing me to serve again as your state representative in the 154th District.
If you have other concerns and suggestions, please let me know.  I look forward to going back to session representing the common sense, conservative values of the Ozarks.  If you would like to schedule a specific time to meet locally, please call Sarah in my office at 573-751-1455, or please contact my office by email at  

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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