Jackson County officials say the Missouri General Assembly took needed action of some of the county’s highest priorities this year, including continued funding for Arrowhead and Kauffmann stadiums, but left others to languish.
“Our biggest issue, of course, was our soon-to-expire stadium funding,” lobbyist Fred Dreiling told legislators this week. The county, Kansas City and the state together kick in $8 million a year for maintenance and upgrades – a condition of the Chiefs and Royals long-term leases. But the state hadn’t committed beyond next year, and County Legislator Dan Tarwater, D-Kansas City, said losing that money would put county taxpayers on the hook for another $3 million a year to keep the leases intact.
“The money going to the stadiums is huge,” Tarwater said.
Dreiling also noted passage of a bill to end public incentives to move business across the state line in the immediate metro area and expressed confidence that Kansas will go along.
But at least two other county priorities got no traction in the General Assembly, which adjourned last week.
One is jail funding. The county has for years asked the state to pay more for the inmates held in the county jail. Their argument is that the overwhelming number of those in the jail are there on state charges. But most states don’t pay local governments for that, and Missouri pays $22.58 a day – and only after a conviction. That’s less than one-third of what the county says it costs to house and feed an inmate.
The General Assembly again this year didn’t budge on that number, despite Gov. Mike Parson’s support for doing so.
“We were very disappointed that the prison per diem remained at $22.58,” Dreiling said.
The state is $30 million behind on such payments to counties – $2 million to Jackson County alone. But the General Assembly only added $750,000 to the budget to bite into that $30 million deficit.
Dreiling suggested that since the county is looking at a new jail, perhaps it could point to the $2 million it’s owed and make the case for state help for a new facility.
The county also has for several years supported a statewide prescription drug monitoring database, a tool every state except Missouri uses to flag the worst offenders among those prescribing and those buying excessive amounts of such things as opioids. The county has joined St. Louis County and other local governments across the state for their own form of such a database, but local officials still want a statewide solution.
“Honestly, next year, I think there’s a really good chance of that passing,” said lobbyist Noel Torpey, who pointed out that federal reimbursements would make such a program essentially free to the state – but the opportunity for that money goes away in 2021.
“It wouldn’t cost this state a penny,” he said.