Fitzpatrick working on state’s budget

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

State Rep. also seeks reforms on Bright Flight, unemployment

As a budget chairman for the state of Missouri, State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, is focused on delivering a balanced budget to Gov. Eric Greitens for approval.

Fitzpatrick

"That's my main focus," Fitzpatrick said. "It's something we are constitutionally required to do every year."

Fitzpatrick has served on the budget committee since he became a House member in 2013 and has been vice chairman for two years prior to being named chair of the committee.

Fitzpatrick said this year, he has some ideas that will be fiscally beneficial to the state.

"I'd like to reform the Bright Flight Scholarship," he said.

Bright Flight is a Missouri merit-based scholarship with a current maximum amount of $3000 per year to Missouri's qualifying graduating high school seniors who enroll in a Missouri accredited college or university. The actual amount of the scholarship is determined based upon state funding and is sometimes less than the maximum amount. To qualify, students must be in the top three percent of their class, achieve a 31 or higher on the ACT or SAT tests, and maintain a 2.5 grade point average in college and maintain full-time student status to renew the scholarship, which can be renewed for up to five years.

"I'd like to change or expand eligibility and make it a forgivable loan," Fitzpatrick said. "Graduates would re-main in the state and work for four years to repay the loan.

"Right now, the system is set up and a lot of kids leave the state when they finish school," he said. "I'm trying to make the scholarship more meaningful and bring some benefit to the state."

Fitzpatrick is also eyeing unemployment reform, hoping to index the duration of unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate.

"We habitually run out of money for unemployment during a recession," he said. "This way, the benefits will last longer than the 13-20 weeks of eligibility."

The move would cut the amount of time unemployed in Missouri could claim benefits to one of the shortest in the nation, one of eight states offering less than 26 weeks of eligibility.

According to Fitzpatrick, if the fund is bankrupt, the federal government automatically raises taxes on employers.

Fitzpatrick has also sponsored legislation exempting autocycles from the helmet requirements currently imposed on motorcycle riders and another modifying the definitions of "fantasy sports contest" and "fantasy sports contest operator." That bill changes the requirement that any prize won by a registered player from a contest be deposited into the player's account within 48 hours of winning, to also allow a prize to be mailed within five business days.

For more information on bills introduced into the 2018 legislative session, people may visit www.house.mo.gov.

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