Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Monday, January 25, 2010

State of the State

This week Governor Jay Nixon delivered the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. This was different than the seven previous State of the State addresses that I have attended during my time in the Missouri House. Unlike previous addresses, this year’s address was a 45 minute speech without enthusiasm, without passion, without substance, and without leadership.

In the midst of 9.6% unemployment and sagging state revenues, Governor Nixon failed to cast a vision for Missouri’s future. The speech was more notable for it didn’t address than what it did.

There was no mention of the current state of the state. It lacked any serious conversation of the challenges we face in crafting the next state budget. It lacked any serious discussion of his priorities in his budget. No mention of serious tax reform, economic incentive reform, or health care reform. The Governor even failed to take a stand on the health care proposals in Congress.

This was a “safe” speech. It did not address anything controversial, nor did Governor Nixon stick his neck out backing any significant issue. He gave his office and the General Assembly all of the elbow room necessary to do anything and claim a victory – after all it is an election year.

While I did expect more from Governor Nixon’s address, he did state that:

We must keep the jobs we have, and create thousands more.

We must build a granite foundation for Missouri’s future growth.

And we must balance the budget without raising taxes.

This simple statement is a great place to start and deserves bipartisan cooperation to move Missouri forward in the coming year and decade. His economic proposals deserve our attention, we must build a budget that lives within our means without raising taxes, and we must position Missouri by simplifying our regulatory environment.

Even though the State of the State lacked substance and leadership, it did open the door for Governor, the House, and the Senate to work together this session.

In contrast to Governor Nixon’s silence on the health care proposals in Washington, DC, the Missouri House passed a concurrent resolution this week by a vote of 111 to 46 that sends a message to our congressional delegation, Speaker Pelosi, and the President opposing these measures on the grounds that they are too expensive, too big, to corrupt, and hand out too many special deals. The cost to the state of Missouri is enormous and will do nothing bend the cost curve making health insurance more affordable.

According to a Rasmussen Reports poll released recently, 55% of the American people oppose these proposals and only 40% support the federal healthcare takeover and mandate being thrust upon us by President Obama, Senator Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi. Other polls in Missouri suggest opposition among Missourians is closer to 60 - 65%.

These proposals contain provisions that obligate the states to substantially increase the amount of money that each state will be required to pay for Medicaid with the exception of special backroom deals like Senator Nelson’s Cornhusker Kickback for Nebraska that exempts Nebraska from this provision shifting their costs on the rest of the states.

The Missouri Department of Social Services estimates that the total cost to Missouri could range from $2.18 billion to $2.45 billion. This is on top of the $100 million plus per year in new funding for natural caseload growth. Our budget, along with Missouri taxpayers can not bear this new shift of costs without increasing taxes or cutting expenditures on education or other vital state services.

The weeks ahead will pose many challenges for lawmakers. Short-term fiscal policies will fail to promote long-term growth. The Missouri House of Representatives will pursue policies that will allow people keep more of their own money, allow them to make decisions for themselves and their families, and give individuals more liberty in their consumption, savings, and debt retirement.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

House and Senate Priorities

The second week of the session has concluded and business in the Missouri House is taking shape. As bills begin to be referred to committees and committees begin public hearings, the legislative agenda takes shape.

The most notable event of the week occurred on Wednesday when visitors from across the state crowded into the Capitol Rotunda to hold the first ever Missouri State Sovereignty Rally. The purpose of this year’s rally was prompted by the massive opposition by Americans to the federal health care proposals and encroachment of the federal government into our private lives.

Those in attendance are concerned that the federal health care proposals would create an unfair tax on individuals who do not purchase health insurance and penalize businesses that do not offer it to their employees. They oppose the massive expansion of welfare at the expense of the states and lack of fiscal restraint. Their opposition is well founded after Democrat negotiators in Washington caved and exempted union health care plans from their proposed 40% tax creating yet another special class of Americans at the expense of the rest of us.

The week was also the scene of a joint press conference by House and Senate leaders outlining a joint set of priorities for this session. First, and foremost, fiscal responsibility and passing a balanced budget will be front and center. Missouri’s revenue collections continue to lag projections and difficult choices will be in store. The fiscal priorities include:

  • Urging Governor Nixon to issue prompt income tax refunds;
  • Require legislative oversight for the spending of federal stimulus dollars;
  • Reduce fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system
  • That the state of Missouri will live within its means; and
  • Pledge that there will be absolutely no tax increases on Missourians.

In addition to passing a sound, fiscally responsible state budget so that Missouri continues to be solvent and viable for future generations, these priorities also include protecting our constitutional rights and Liberty; continuing to secure the health, safety, and welfare of all Missourians; and continuing to uphold traditional, common sense Missouri values. Specifically, the House and Senate recognize these issues as necessary to reach these goals:

  • Ensure greater transparency and strengthen ethics in government;
  • Oppose a bloated and expanded government, support smaller government;
  • Oppose the federal government takeover of our health care system;
  • Call upon Congress to oppose job destroying cap-and-trade legislation;
  • Make certain that statutes pertaining to clean water are implemented to ensure public safety of our citizens; and
  • Require credit agencies to withhold reporting negative information if it is caused by identity theft.

As our state continues to face budget uncertainty and Missouri’s unemployment recently inched up to 9.6%, Missouri must be wary of any proposal, state or federal, that would potentially cost Missouri financially or at the expense of our collective identify as Missourians.

These proposals are intended to allow people keep more of their own money, to allow them to make decisions for themselves and their families, to give individuals more liberty in their consumption, savings, and debt retirement. At some point, we, as Americans, will decide whether Thomas Jefferson’s maxim will prevail - will we allow Liberty to yield and government to gain ground?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Session Begins

This week the Second Regular Session of the 95th General Assembly was convened. This will be my last year to serve in the Missouri House of Representatives due to term limits and I look forward to representing the interests of our communities and our state in the coming months.

It is also with great regret that I inform you that the U.S. Congress has also convened this week to work tirelessly on their behalf, and their elections, as well.

Missouri's state budget will command the most attention from lawmakers and special interest groups this session. This is the second budget year in a row where general revenue collections are less than the previous year. At present, revenue collections are down considerably from last year with year to date collections off by 10.5%.

The Governor, House, and Senate budget leaders have agreed upon the revised consensus revenue estimate for the remainder of this fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2010 predicting that revenues will be 6.4% less than expected at $6.97 billion in general revenue. The fiscal year 2010 budget was passed based upon an overly optimistic revenue estimate of $7.76 billion.

They have also agreed upon the consensus revenue estimate for the next budget year which begins on July 1, 2010 suggesting a growth in state general revenue collections of 3.5% resulting in $7.223 billion of general revenue. This will be a difficult number to beat if unemployment remains high.

Speaking of unemployment, this year begins with a staggering 9.5% unemployment rate in Missouri and 10% unemployment nationwide. The shadow of the federal government continues to darken over the states and the federal overreach into the lives of Americans is frighteningly Orwellian.

A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece suggested, "... a civilization becomes incompetent not only when it fails to learn the lessons of the past, but also when it becomes crippled by them." The world over is strewn with the debris of failed socialist governments, despots, and the wretched human condition of those struggling for hope and liberty at the hands of those promoting "the greater good".

Yet, in Washington, Congress continues to fritter away opportunity after opportunity to provide real leadership for America, to unleash the American mind and the entrepreneur by promoting Liberty. Instead, our elected Congress and executive branch ignore the virtue of our matchless Constitution, they ignore the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness endowed to us by our Creator as recognized by our Founders in the Declaration of Independence, and they buy each other off with our tax dollars to ingratiate themselves, buy votes for unpopular legislation, and then turn around and lecture us about who is watching out for our best interests.

This is the year where states will play defense. We will dust off the forgotten notion of federalism and we will remind Congress and the President that the U.S. Constitution begins with "We the People".

The Republican majority in the Missouri House recognizes that the bedrock of the economy, the bedrock of every community, is you and your family.

It is time for government to quit trying pick winners and losers, to stop trying to tell us what is good for us, to stop trying to be God. Instead, government should recognize that, as Frederic Bastiat observed in 1850:

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies... And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

Where our federal government has failed to act, the Missouri House will remain committed to seeking solutions to the problems faced by Missourians from all walks of life.