Gov. Mike Parson spoke in support of increasing Missouri's fuel tax and the importance of workforce development during a speech at the Missouri Community Betterment Awards in Columbia on Monday evening.

Parson said increasing the fuel tax to improve Missouri's roads and bridges is long overdue. He was speaking in support of a measure to raise Missouri's fuel tax, which is on the ballot for the November election.

"It's the first time I've ever openly supported any kind of fee, any kind of tax in my career," Parson said. "But I do think sometimes you do things that may be not quite the most popular thing to do."

Parson said improving the state's infrastructure is key to workforce development. “Missouri would not move forward like a ship moves forward" without it he said. "Other states are doing it. Other states are moving fast.”

The governor also spoke about the importance of supporting education in having a prepared workforce.

Parson said the state spends a great amount of money on K-12 public education system and higher education. They are “well-invested” and “bringing people out, getting them prepared for the real world.”

Parson pointed out the conflict between the demand for qualified people and the reality that people are not ready for the workforce.

“And if you are like me, and you have a high school degree and you don't have anything else as opposed to education to go with that, unfortunately, it's a little declining market,” Parson said.

Parson also mentioned communities of people who are incarcerated as one of the initiatives he focuses on for workforce development.

“I think we should figure out how people get skills while they're incarcerated and how to prepare them for the workforce while they're in prison,” Parson said.

The banquet Parson spoke to capped off the two-day annual Missouri Community Betterment conference. About 120 people attended the banquet, which was held in Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center. The topic for this year was "Rural Rally."

It has been almost 12 years since the last time a governor attended the conference, according to Ron Hopkins, secretary and treasurer of MCB. He said the two-day conference provides recognition for those in rural communities and offers sessions focusing on key topics in rural areas.

He said the age demographic in rural areas is getting older because young people go to big cities after graduation. 

Louis Riggs, President of MCB, talked about youth engagement. He said the earlier young people engage in the community leadership program, the more they will know about the community and the more likely they will devote themselves to it in the future.

“The only reason you are here tonight is what other people have done for you, your parents have done for you, your grandparents have done for you, the leaders in your community have done for you,” Parson told those in attendance. “It is our responsibility now.”

Supervising editor is Mark Horvit.

  • I'm a reporter at the Missourian. Reach me at, or 571-599-6652.

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