Advocating for You - December, 2018
Jan 03, 2019
Streetcar Expansion: The KC Chamber has been working with its two-state congressional delegation on support for a Kansas City grant request to the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) New Starts Program in order to fund the KC Streetcar Main Street Extension. Special thanks to Senators Roy Blunt, Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran and Congressmen Sam Graves and Kevin Yoder for their letters of support for this capital investment grant that will support a long-planned extension of the Streetcar starter line to the Country Club Plaza and UMKC. The Main Street Extension project is estimated at $316 million and would be funded by $151 million in New Starts Grant funding and $165 million in approved local funding.
Thanks for Sen. Blunt- NIH Support: In last month's Advocating for You newsletter the KC Chamber neglected to recognize the extraordinary leadership and support of U.S. Senator Roy Blunt for spearheading the $2 billion increase to funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Senator Blunt serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies and has played a pivotal role in changing the trajectory for NIH funding, which was stagnant for over a decade. NIH funding is vital to Kansas City's regional life sciences sector and so many area health institutions. The Chamber and Kansas City are fortunate to have Senator Blunt's leadership and policy acumen when it comes to support for cures and this rapidly growing regional industry.
Rep. Graves RM House Transportation Committee: Missouri Congressman Sam Graves was tapped last month to lead the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which is expected in the next two years to consider a multi-year infrastructure policy measure and reauthorizations of programs that govern the country's waterways, public transit and railroads. In recent years, transportation authorizers have fallen short in efforts to agree on a long-term funding approach for the Highway Trust Fund to support construction and maintenance of the nation's highways and bridges. As a long-time member of the Committee, Congressman Graves has been willing to look at innovative solutions to the country's transportation issues.
"Addressing our crumbling infrastructure has long been a bipartisan issue, and I am intent on working with all my colleagues, the Senate, and President Trump to craft an infrastructure proposal that includes finding a long-term funding solution for the Highway Trust Fund," said Graves.
Transportation Funding: The Kansas City region received two important transportation infrastructure grants last month including a $25 million grant to kickstart the much-needed replacement of the Buck O'Neil Bridge and $13.8 million to replace the existing interchange at Interstate 70 and Turner Diagonal in Kansas City, Kansas. Congressmen Sam Graves, incoming Ranking Member for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced the Buck O'Neil Bridge award last month and said the project has been a "priority of mine from the start."
The current Buck O'Neil Bridge is 62 years old and serves as an important connection between the northern Kansas City suburbs and the downtown area, supporting 40,000 vehicles per day. Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder announced the Turner Diagonal award which will rebuild the interchange with a more efficient diverging diamond interchange to open opportunities for major economic development.
After receiving testimony from over 30 KC Chamber members, 7 committees, and thorough vetting from the Chamber's Public Policy Council, Missouri and Kansas State Affairs Committees and Chamber lobbyists, comprehensive Missouri and Kansas State Affairs 2019 policy agendas have been approved by the Chamber's Board of Directors at the December Board meeting. In addition to the agendas, the Chamber Board approved a set of 5 policy pillars that support the Chamber's public policy positions in both Missouri and Kansas as well at the federal level to more cohesively advocate for Chamber priorities. Both 2019 Missouri and Kansas State Affairs Agendas and the 5 policy pillars can be found here.
Chamber Hosts Missouri Freshmen: The KC Chamber was honored to host the Missouri Freshmen Tour last month with 64 newly elected members of the House of Representatives. The tour, which started in St. Louis, visited several employers in the Kansas City area and heard about the Chamber's work on workforce development following a tour of the MCC Health Sciences Institute. The group also met with Chamber policy leaders at dinner where the discussion ranged from the business community's support for the earnings tax to transportation funding solutions in the wake of the defeat of Proposition D.
Kansas City and St. Louis' earnings tax, a one percent tax on earned income that generates revenue for city services, is being challenged by Sen. Bill Eigel (R-23) with a proposal (SB 112) to reduce the tax each year for 10 years beginning in 2020 until the tax is zero. Eigel headed legislation during the 2018 session to reduce individual income tax rates for all residents. Without the earnings tax, Kansas City and St. Louis would need to make deep cuts to personnel and services - including police and fire protection, street repairs, and park maintenance projects. The KC Chamber is a strong supporter of the earnings tax and urges the business community to fight against the proposed bill. For more information, please contact Cathy Bennett at (816) 374-5412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.