Missouri Gov. Mike Parson told Kansas City leaders he would reconsider a downtown arts project vetoed by his predecessor during his first visit to the city since taking the reins of state government.
Parson met with the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night at Union Station as part of a statewide listening tour during his second full week in office.
The Bolivar Republican rarely mentioned former Gov. Eric Greitens by name during the discussion with Kansas City’s business and political leaders, but Parson’s contrasts with his predecessor, who resigned in the face of multiple scandals, were a recurring theme of the evening.
“The past is the past. We can’t change that,” Parson told reporters when asked about the differences between him and Greitens. “I think hopefully in time you’ll find out that I’ll be different in my own rights as governor. I want to be very transparent. I want to be open to the public. I want to be open to the media.”
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Matthew Condon, the chamber’s chair, told the governor that the organization was “greatly disheartened” by Greitens’ decision to veto the funding plan for the $96 million project, which was to be paid through a combination of state bonds and private dollars, and noted that Parson, a former state senator, had supported the project since its inception.
"Make sure that gets to my desk, and we'll make that decision at that time,” Parson told the crowd after another attendee brought up the project.
“We would definitely really consider that,” Parson elaborated to reporters after the event. “It’s something I’ve worked on before in the past for this area. And I do think it’s important for Kansas City, and I do think it’s a good investment for the state of Missouri.”
Parson also pledged to restore funding for the Missouri Division of Tourism, which was cut nearly in half by Greitens last year. He repeatedly noted that the tourism is the state’s second-largest industry.
Parson called on the city’s business and political leaders to “work their tails off” to help him enact a transportation funding plan, which will require the state’s voters to approve a 10-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase.
“If you’re going to do something about infrastructure, you cannot keep kicking the can down the road,” Parson said. “Missouri has an opportunity this year — not next year — to change our state.”
The listening tour comes after a bipartisan meeting Parson held with the state’s congressional delegation Monday and a sit-down in Jefferson City with mayors from across the state.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James, who had a frosty relationship with Greitens, gushed that the meeting “was the first substantive conversation I’ve had with a governor in this state in some time ... This man wants to govern.”
Not all the event's attendees think Parson represents a change from Greitens.
Parson confirmed to reporters that he plans to sign the budget bill, which includes a provision to block Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood.
Supporters of the bill point to the fact that Planned Parenthood provides abortion services as the reason they object to Medicaid reimbursements for the facility. The reimbursements are for other women’s health services that Planned Parenthood provides.
Dilara Yilmaz, the spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, attended Parson’s event in Kansas City in hopes of asking Parson “whether he was planning on continuing his predecessor’s hostile attacks on women’s health care in Missouri.”
She did not get to ask the question before the event concluded, but she said that Parson’s decision to sign the bill answers it for her.
“This bill is going to affect thousands of Medicaid patients in Missouri who won’t be able to access preventive health care at Planned Parenthood health centers, and that’s a shame,” she said.
The Missouri Department of Social Services sent letters to Planned Parenthood clinics in St. Louis and Kansas City that any claims for Medicaid reimbursement it sends after June 8 will be suspended because those claims would have to be paid in July, after the new fiscal year starts.
Rebecca Woelfel, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an email that the notification of suspension was provisional until final action on the bill is take, but Parson’s aides present at the Kansas City event said it was sent in anticipation that he will sign the bill before June 30.