Despite facing a large budget shortfall at the start of it, former Missouri Governor Christopher “Kit” Bond (R) says the best days he had in government were his second term from 1981 to January 1985 in Jefferson City.
Republican Bond beat incumbent Joe Teasdale (D) in November 1980. After the election, Bond says Teasdale Office of Administration Commissioner Steve Bradford informed him that the state budget was $900 million out of balance.
The state budget at that time was about $3 billion. Bond says he immediately went to work and met with Missouri House and Senate leaders, who were all Democrats.
“I said, look, we have got to get out of this (budget) hole, otherwise the state’s going to go bankrupt, and we’re all going to have egg on our face or worse,” says Bond.
Bond tells Missourinet his office came up with a list of $1.6 billion in possible cuts, and asked the Legislature to select the $900 million they found “least objectionable”.
“None of them (possible cuts) were very pleasant, but the least objectionable,” Bond says. “And I’ll recommend them, you (the Legislature) pass them, I’ll sign them. You (lawmakers) can criticize me for it, but we’ll get out of this mess. They did, I signed them, got a lot of criticism, but we got through the mess.”
Bond says that 1981 agreement became the basis for a “great working relationship” he had with the Democratic-controlled Legislature during the entire second term.
He says Democrats had about 70 percent of legislative seats at that time. He remembers working closely with numerous Democrats, including House Speaker Bob Griffin (D-Cameron), State Sen. Norman Merrill (D-Monticello), State Sen. Jim Mathewson (D-Sedalia), State Sen. John Scott (D-St. Louis) and State Sen. Ed Dirck (D-St. Ann).
Bond says the 1981 program cuts upset some. He says some mental hospitals were phased out or closed and replaced with community-based services. He says there were some pickets against him.
Bond was elected governor in 1972 and served his first term from 1973 to January 1977. He pushed and established government reorganization, which he describes as a “real battle”.
Bond lost a re-election bid in 1976 to “Walking Joe” Teasdale, but beat Teasdale in 1980.
Bond says his greatest success as governor came in that second term, when Parents as Teachers passed. He credits former State Sen. Harry Wiggins (D-Kansas City), for getting it to the finish line.
“Harry was absolutely critical,” says Bond. “He got it through. We had some lawyers on my (the Republican) side who were filibustering it (Parents as Teachers). And we had to make a little legislative deal to get that one adopted.”
Parents as Teachers started in Missouri in 1984. It now serves more than 200,000 children in all 50 states and six other countries.
The Parents as Teachers website says the program “promotes the optimal early development, learning and health of young children by supporting and engaging their parents and caregivers.” The website says Parents as Teachers works to shape policy “around the importance of enhancing school readiness by reaching children during the critical, formative years of life.”