I took a few minutes the other day to sit down with Bill Kidd.
Kidd is a Republican state legislator from Independence, in his fourth year representing a House district that runs from Sugar Creek to Lake City to Sibley.
He takes issue with the ways and whys of how some things get ironed out in Jefferson City, and he specifically takes issue with the result, which is no overall vision for the Missouri of even five and 10 years from now.
“Where are we going to be, and what do we need for that?” he said.
Specifically, he wants a business plan. With the caveat that a business is a business, government is government, they are very different things, he’s right. A state ought to conduct itself like – like – a business in many important respects, so the comparison has limits but is useful.
But next-election thinking and term limits present a powerful barrier to that kind of vision.
“Term limits prevent us from having a plan in the state,” Kidd said.
Kidd has several ideas, many about energy. He’s worked for years with a group, Renew Missouri, that two weeks ago released a letter from Walmart, General Motors, Unilever and others calling on Missouri to allow “third-party power-purchase agreements.” That is, Company A could find deals on its own instead of being bound by geography and the service area of Utility X. That would be highly disruptive – no bill with the Renew Missouri’s agenda has been filed yet – but advocates say it would make it easier for the Walmarts of the world to get greener and make shareholders happier.
“We need to change the way we do energy in this state,” Kidd said, adding that Missouri’s regulatory framework is stuck in the 1930s. Utilities build infrastructure and are allowed a certain return on that capital investment. That creates an incentive for bigger projects, he said, not always the best thing for the economy overall.
Missouri is in the middle of the country, and Kidd says it should be transformed into “an energy zone” – an idea he’s also echoed for the Little Blue Valley in eastern Independence as it develops.
“There’s no reason you shouldn’t come to Missouri,” Kidd said.
The two central issues are power and a well-trained workforce, he said, meaning the capacity and focus of high school and vo-tech schools is of paramount importance. Again, not much movement on those in Jefferson City.
The lack of a plan means a trend that Kidd mentions frequently continues to play out on its own. Out of every Missouri tax dollar, 76 cents is for schools and social services. That’s rising and unsustainable, he says.
“Inflation is the real robber. It’s the silent thief in the economy,” Kidd said.
The frustrating lack of focus on long-term issues goes right along with the state’s persistent inaction on roads.
“We’ll live with that,” Kidd said, “until something breaks.”
-- Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at 816-350-6313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.