Fitzpatrick named House Budget Chairman
At 28, Fitzpatrick is youngest state budget leader in the U.S.
It's always good to get an early start in any career, and for State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, that is what has happened, but not in the career path he originally planned.
At just 28 years old, Fitzpatrick, who previously had no prior experience in politics, has successfully served constituents in the 158th District now for nearly two terms in the Missouri House.
Fitzpatrick was most recently named House Budget Chairman, making him the youngest state budget leader in any state legislature in the United States.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, made the announcement on Aug. 23 that Fitzpatrick would be replacing State Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, who is not running for re-election due to term limits.
Fitzpatrick, who graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010 with a business degree, said he didn't plan to get into politics, and while some may call it destiny, or just the twists and turns of life, a series of circumstances and experiences ultimately led him there.
In fact, he'd already started his own successful business manufacturing and constructing boat docks and marinas.
"My career goals were to continue to grow the business," he said. "I had no interest in running for office until after 2008. I was in business in Shell Knob, and we dealt with the government at various levels every day. Those actions had become more and more frustrating over the years, and I decided to try and run for office.
"So, one, it was a timing thing because the seat was open and I was running a business with enough flexibility that I did not have to be there every day. Two, I was frustrated with government and had the option of remaining frustrated, or trying to do something to make it better, and I chose the latter. I wanted to make a difference, and was a young person with new ideas and I thought the Republican party needed more people involved."
As a business owner, economic events in 2008 caught his attention.
"A recession is not a good thing for business, and the 2008 election was the first I'd paid close attention to, and obviously wasn't very pleased with how things were going," Fitzpatrick said. "Things didn't get any better as far as the government went, and that's when I really started noticing and paying attention that not everything the government was doing was right."
After having the opportunity to wade into political waters, Fitzpatrick maintains he wouldn't change his life path if he could, and that one of the pillars of his political philosophy is still less government in people's lives, which he continually advocates for his constituents.
"It's been almost four years," he said. "I have served almost two full terms and will be reelected in November/January. There are definitely days I want to put my head in my hands with frustration with some of the things that go on, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve in the legislature and I've tried to do my best to do the things I said I would do, and I think that if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do anything different."
As for his age and serving with colleagues with more experience and much older than he, he doesn't feel it has posed any challenges.
"I don't think anyone has discounted what I've said or wanted to do because of my age, and for the most part, I think it's not been a hindrance," he said.
Fitzpatrick has served on the House Budget committee since taking office in 2013, and has served as the vice chairman for the past two years. The committee's job is to draft the House's version of the state's multi-billion dollar budget, and to negotiate differences between budgets proposed by the governor and the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Fitzpatrick said passing a budget is a constitutional responsibility and the most important task the committee has.
"It's important because the government can't operate if the bills don't pass," he said. "For instance, the highway patrol would be off the road, the Department of Transportation couldn't plow snow, the prisons would close, so these are the bills that keep the government doing what they are supposed to do. Schools would shut down if they did not receive their state funding."
The committee chairman is ultimately responsible for negotiating the difference between the House and Senate and coming up with a budget that the whole general assembly can agree to and send to the governor.
"As the vice chairman the last two years, I carried the bills on the House floor and through final passage this year because the chairman was sick, so I have experience doing it," he said.
The term is for two years.
His goals as budget chair include fully funding the K-12 Foundation Formula, and paying off the state's $170 million in general obligation bond debt.
"The K-12 Foundation is a direct state payment that helps schools operate and provides their funding," he said. "If Cassville schools didn't receive it [for instance], it would probably not be able to stay open. The problem has been the formula spit out a number too large for the state budget to be able to handle. We made some tweaks to it last year, but I think we have an opportunity to fully fund it.
"Another goal I have is to pay off the general obligation bond debt. Those are the bonds that are backed by the full faith and credit of the state, and I'm going to make an attempt to accelerate the payments on those to save the state millions in interest."