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26 March 2010

Engler: Fighting for Freedom in Healthcare

As we worked this week in the Missouri Senate to cut costs and streamline government, the federal government ignored the voices of the American people and passed a federal healthcare plan that carries a price tag of more than $900 billion.  The bill mandates that individuals and businesses buy healthcare or face large fines.  The bill contains massive tax increases and is an unprecedented violation of individual rights. We are trying to find ways to protect Missourians from being forced into this costly and bureaucratic plan.

From a state perspective, one of the most alarming parts of the federal legislation is the forced expansion of state welfare. The plan will cost the state $1.34 billion over the next 10 years. This is a significant increase and results in a very serious boost in costs to taxpayers.  The feds tried to placate the state's outcry at this expansion by offering to supplement the funding for the first several years.  Still, in 2017, Missouri taxpayers will be paying for 5 percent of the expansion cost – that's $99.2 million in general revenue.

This cost, combined with the fact that this plan encroaches on the healthcare freedom of Missourians, led the Senate to spend a good deal of time discussing Senate Joint Resolution 25.  The legislation would protect Missourians' healthcare choices by sending to the voters a constitutional amendment that would stipulate that no federal law could compel a patient, employer, or healthcare provider to participate in any government or privately run health care system that they do not want to be in. The bill also makes sure that no law can prohibit a patient or employer from paying out of pocket for legal healthcare services. The legislation would allow the people of this state to have a voice in their healthcare freedom, even as they were ignored by the federal government.

The other focus in the Senate this week was cutting costs, and we spent a day on Tuesday discussing ways that we can streamline government.  Dropping revenue has prompted a serious conversation on how to make sure state government is as efficient as possible, and we wanted to make sure the public had input on how to best proceed.  After taking more than 1,500 submissions from the public, we met on Tuesday in small working groups to go through these ideas.  We succeeded in identifying ways to save between $683.3 to $789.4 million in taxpayer dollars.  Among others, these ideas included consolidating state departments, increasing canteen costs to prisoners, and placing a global cap on tax credits in the state.  The ideas have to be implemented in a variety of ways: through legislative action, the budget process, or executive order.  For a full list of ideas or to submit your own, visit and click on the "Rebooting Government" logo.

Check this out: The Columbia Missourian recently put together a video on Winston, my English bulldog that sometimes spends time with me at the Capitol.  Check out the video here.

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