Missouri has made a lot of progress these past few years going from a billion dollar deficit to what is now a $500 million surplus. We went from losing 34,000 jobs to gaining over 90,000 jobs. Spending was out of control resulting in cuts to every state program. We went from 87% of our roads being in less than good condition to now having 74% of our roads in good condition with still more to come.
In the 2007 school year our fourth and eighth graders posted significant gains on national math tests and Missouri was one of only six states with fourth graders who scored higher on all five sections of the national math exam. Not only did a record 74% of Missouri seniors take the ACT, they beat the national average. Rising to the prospect of more students attending college, we saw an increase from 16,400 need-based scholarships being offered to assisting over 36,000 students from the Access Missouri Scholarship initiative.
Yes, Missouri has turned a corner.
The Governor rightly noted that, “Missourians demanded change: to put Missouri families, Missouri values and Missouri taxpayers first." Much has been accomplished without raising state taxes.
Yet, challenges remain and there is more work to do. The Governor made the following statement, “Now is not the time to go back to the old ways of bigger government, higher taxes, more lawsuits, and too much regulation”, – a statement that I wholeheartedly agree.
The budget recommended by the Governor stands at $23.095 billion dollars, an increase of $1.4 billion, or 6.2%, over our current budget. This increase will primarily go towards education and health care.
Elementary and secondary schools would receive an increase of $121 million, more than 4% over last year. Missouri colleges and universities would receive an additional $54.2 million, an increase of more than 6%, and Missouri families have been protected from unreasonable tuition hikes by capping tuition increases. MO HealthNet, formerly known as Medicaid, will still consume 30% of Missouri’s resources.
It should be noted that the consensus revenue estimate, meaning the estimated amount of new tax collections for the next budget year, has been pegged at 3.4%.
This is our opportunity to take a hard look at how the state spends public dollars to reduce uncompensated care, a hidden tax for each of us with private insurance, build upon last year’s foundation of an ownership model for health care providing for portability and tax equity, to assist individuals with health conditions that preclude them from private insurance, and look to the future recognizing that each of us has a fundamental right in property to the our health data leading to greater consumer choice and access that will ultimately lead to greater competition and quality of health care services.
This is our opportunity to protect the safety of Missourians, to defend our hard-earned tax dollars, to protect our jobs, and, lest Washington D.C. forget, to enforce the rule of law by taking steps with purpose to curb illegal immigration. The Governor outlined recommendations to ban “sanctuary cities”, forbid local governments from hampering law enforcement efforts to enforce immigration law, making it a crime to transport illegal aliens for exploitive purposes, and require state agencies to verify the legal status of applicants before enrolling them on state programs to name just a few.
There is no shortage of issues confronting the people of Missouri. The question we must ask ourselves each year is: Will the General Assembly hold tightly to the virtue of Liberty as a foundational element in each solution or will the General Assembly – under Republican control – adopt a “big government republicanism” approach?
This is still the Show-Me State, not the nanny state. I say give Liberty a chance.