by Rep. Craig Redmon

Over the past several months, a headline has made it into newspapers large and small, making an impression on the constituents and law enforcement officers who have brought it to my attention. The Missouri Department of Corrections has a backlog of payments on county jail reimbursements, money that should be going to defray the costs of jailing suspects that may later go to prison. As of the end of August, the overall backlog stood at over $19 million across Missouri. The counties of Northeast Missouri are no exception. Lewis County, as of August 31, was due over $10,000 in jail reimbursements. Adair County was owed over $54,000, Macon County over $61,000, Ralls County over $68,000. Marion County is set to receive a staggering $272,000 from the state. All in all, the counties of Northeast Missouri are owed over $620,000. Since the time these figures were published in August, some payments have been made, but this week the Department of Corrections announced that payments would cease until January 2, the beginning of the next financial quarter.

As a member of the Budget Committee in the Missouri House, we have always passed a balanced budget, as required by the Missouri Constitution. We work within the projected revenue and appropriately allot expenditures. In this regard, the state of Missouri pays its bills on time. It is abundantly clear that the Department of Corrections has not been keeping up with its bills. When a Missouri family falls behind on the bills, they risk their credit, their utilities, and even their homes. This is a reality for many families. And just as those families can seek financial advice and services to improve their situation, so should the Department of Corrections.

This is a pressing issue upon our state and upon each and every county that is owed money. Our counties cannot continue to make up for the shortfall the state is creating. Our law enforcement officers and first responders cannot keep Missourians safe if they cannot afford to repair their facilities, and give them even the most basic maintenance to keep operating efficiently. Such a pressing issue requires more than just talk. It requires action. That is why today I am calling for a solution. No one party, whether it be the sheriffs, the legislature, or the Department of Corrections has all of the answers. In the coming weeks, I will be bringing together the stakeholders, and we will work to find a comprehensive solution, one that will make public safety a priority again. That is what the people of northeast Missouri deserve. It is what our law enforcement and first responders deserve. I am ready to lead on this issue. I hope you will join me.