Jackson County legislators were told Monday that Jefferson City is more a source of headaches than hope on issues from roads and bridges to jail operations.
Revisiting issues that come up year after year, lobbyist Fred Dreiling said the big-ticket item for the county is the state’s reimbursement for prisoners held on state charges at the County Detention Center. Those account for the vast majority of inmates at the jail, but the county has a hard time collecting on its costs.
It costs the county $90 or more a day to house, feed and deal with an inmate’s medical needs, but the state only pays $22.58, a figure that was bumped by $2 a couple years ago. Also, the state is $19 million behind in payments to counties.
Dreiling said these inequities might have to get worked out in court, with counties suing the state.
“We could try to do it $2 a time down there, but in the end it’s ridiculous,” Dreiling said.
Dreiling also said he’s monitoring funding for Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. The state’s commitment to pay $3 million a year toward their upkeep runs only through 2021, though the Chiefs and Royals leases run several years past that. The county could be the hook if the state doesn’t pay. The county already pays $3 million a year on its own, and Kansas City pays $2 million.
There’s been talk of filling the potential gap with money from the entertainer’s tax – paid by out-of-town athletes when their teams play here – but Dreiling said that’s a tough conversation in an election year.
Dreiling was more optimistic about a bill again before the General Assembly to allow counties to go the voters and expand the 911 tax to cell phones. Missouri is alone among the 50 states in paying for 911 solely with fees on land lines, even though the vast majority of 911 calls are from cell phones.
“Seems like if you have a phone and want to have 911, you need to contribute,” said Legislator Tony Miller, D-Lee’s Summit.
A bill by state Rep. Jeanie Lauer, R-Blue Springs, would allow that broader funding.
“This is the national model,” Dreiling said.
The Missouri House has passed Lauer’s bill in each of the last several years, but it has always died in the Senate. Some senators want in return a consolidation of 911 call centers. Dreiling said he’s “somewhat optimistic” that the Senate will approve the bill this year.
Dreiling also pointed out that no legislation has been filed yet to put into effect the recommendations of a task force, appointed by the General Assembly, to study transportation issues. One of its chief recommendations is a 10-cent increase in the state’s gas tax.
“MoDOT has no money, and our highways are going to begin to crumble,” Dreiling said.
County Legislator Crystal Williams, D-Kansas City, is frequently critical of the direction coming out of the General Assembly, and she was again Monday.
“I’ve never see it like this,” she said. “It is literally a circular firing squad – and they don’t give a damn about us.”
Roads and bridges won’t be addressed, she said, “until one of bridges falls down in one of their districts.”