| Columbia Daily Tribune
2021 Economic Outlook Conference
About 75 people attend the Columbia Chamber of Commerce 2021 Economic Outlook Conference where Gov. Mike Parson talked about broadband expansion and the future of workforce development in Missouri.
Don Shrubshell, Columbia Daily Tribune
Gov. Mike Parson delivered the keynote speech at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Outlook Conference on Thursday at the Stoney Creek Inn.
Parson gave insight to the state’s vaccination effort, which debuted its high-throughput vaccine plan this week. MU Health Care was one beneficiary of the new program, as the state diverted 53% of its nearly 76,000 weekly vaccine doses to select hospitals.
MU Health is on track to vaccinate 4,000 patients in Phase 1B Tier 2 this week — individuals over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions.
“Those are the most high-risk and vulnerable people,” Parson said about the latest vaccination group. “Those are the ones that are in the health care systems that we have today. We know if we can get their vaccinations there, that will do us more good in the long run.”
Parson said the state doesn’t have enough vaccine to deliver doses to every local health department or hospital system. The next phase of vaccinations includes teachers and childcare workers.
“This will be a struggle for months to come,” Parson said. “This is not going to be something that’s going to go away in a short period of time.”
Parson also discussed COVID-19 liability, broadband connectivity and Wayfair taxes.
“We need to get the COVID-19 liability bill passed to protect our businesses, schools, churches and health care workers,” Parson said. “…. We asked a lot of people to do a lot of things back there in March, frankly, just trying to get the job done, and nobody knew where this was headed.
“Nobody should be punished because they were trying to do the right thing.”
Many people view broadband as an issue in rural communities, but Parson emphasized its importance in the state’s biggest cities like Kansas City and St. Louis.
Broadband connectivity falls in line with Parson’s focus on workforce development and infrastructure.
“We have to do that for our state to move forward,” Parson said about the goal to put high speed internet in every home, business and school in Missouri. “It has to be a priority.”
A Wayfair — or internet — tax also is a priority for Parson. The tax would allow state and local governments to collect taxes on online sales. Taxes aren’t collected in Missouri from large online retailers like Amazon.
“You have to address the Wayfair issue here in the state of Missouri,” Parson said. “You have to address that to make this an even playing field. If you have seen anything in the last 10 months, you should know what the disadvantage was for local businesses or small businesses across the state compared to the online retailers across the United States.”
Restaurant and hospitality businesses were the biggest industries hit by the pandemic, and Missourians need to do their part to prop those businesses back up, Parson said.