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23 March 2010

Kraus: Fiscal Responsibility

Bill on Bicycle and Walking Days Goes to the Senate

Last week, I presented HB 1691 to the House of Representatives for a vote.  This bill requires the governor to issue annual proclamations for a Walk and Bike to School month and day in October and Bike to Work month, day and week in May.  It received strong bipartisan support as it passed by a vote of 142 yes, one no, and one present.  The bill has been sent to the Senate and has been assigned to the Progress and Development Committee.

I would like to thank Brent Hugh, Executive Director of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, Jonathan Hugh, and all others who have helped with this bill.

At no cost to the state, days such as this provide an opportunity for schools to organize safe passage for kids to walk or ride to school; create enthusiasm, knowledge and comradeship for healthy exercise; and lead to positive physical and mental health benefits for Missourians.

Lee's Summit Musical Cast Performs in Jefferson City

I enjoyed meeting with the Lee's Summit West High School winter musical cast last week.  The students were honored by being selected to perform at the state Capitol on March 16.  My time with the group was very well spent.  I always find it fruitful to meet with students, talk with them about the job of a state representative, and be challenged with their questions and concerns.

Members of the cast performed "What I Did for Love" from "A Chorus Line" as part of the Fine Arts Education Day, sponsored by the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education.

Health Care Vote

To protect Missourians against being forced to purchase health insurance, I voted for HJR 48, 50 & 57 in the House of Representatives.  This resolution, passed last week, proposes a constitutional amendment that would prohibit Missourians from being mandated to participate in any health care system.  This vote is particularly timely in light of Sunday's passage of the health care legislation in the U.S. Congress.

After being passed in the House, the state resolution has been sent to the Senate for its consideration.  If approved by both chambers, it would go to Missouri voters for approval.

The Constitution of the United States limits the powers of the federal government and gives all others not named in the Constitution to the states.  It does not allow the federal government to step into everyone's lives to make an individual's health care decisions.  It does not allow the federal government to require that citizens purchase particular goods and services just because they live in the United States.

As a representative who believes in listening to constituents, I am sickened by the legislative sleight of hand used to force passage of the federal legislation to which most Americans are opposed.  The sheer number and magnitude of the special deals needed to buy votes to pass the federal health care legislation should alert us to the weakness and wrong direction of this bill.

In Missouri, I'm very glad that the House stepped up to pass HJR 48, 50 & 57 to stop health care mandates and the citizens of our state may have a chance to vote on it as a constitutional amendment.  Let's let the citizens decide on this massive re-structuring of our health care system.

House of Representatives Cuts Its Budget

Missouri's budget has undergone numerous cuts in staff and programs as state revenues continue to spiral downward.   As we look for ways to decrease spending in the state budget, we also have made significant decreases in our own House budget as well.

An obvious place to cut in a tight budget year is to decrease our work-related travel expenses.  Most travel expense reimbursements are now being denied.   Professional memberships are also being dropped.  In the past, the House has been a member of several key organizations including the National Conference of State Legislatures, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the Council of State Governments.  This year, we opted out of our memberships in an effort to reduce spending for a total of $345,000 in savings.

In addition, we worked with the Joint Committee on Legislative Research to eliminate the Legislative Budget Office, which saved $242,000.  We have saved another $100,000 – 200,000 of the House budget fund that would have been used in redistricting responsibilities.

Technology brings a mixed bag of costs and savings and its use, even if beneficial, must always be monitored for need versus available funds.  Therefore, reimbursements for cellular phones used for work have also been eliminated, saving the House $55,000.  In the Chambers, the House plans to replace a cumbersome paper system with laptop computers to reduce paper consumption and costs.  Although laptops are expensive, over time we expect to see significant decreases in paper costs and a more efficient handling of House business.

I hear from my constituents that they are concerned about the cost and size of government.  Out of Missouri's 2010 Operating Budget, only 1.6 cents of every dollar goes to the combined offices of Elected Officials, Judiciary, Legislature and Public Defender.  While the House budget is a very small part of the total state budget, I'm glad that we have joined our fellow Missourians in making sacrifices.

MoDOT to Sell Excess Property

Thirty-two pieces of prime real estate throughout the state will go on the auction block April 26-30 when the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) holds its second Realty to Roads property sale.   MoDOT plans to use the money on road and bridge projects.

A similar effort to sell excess property last November netted more than $675,000 for road and bridge projects. Because that sale was so successful, the transportation department is looking to move another 32 pieces of property off of its inventory. The parcels range in size from a quarter of an acre to 200 acres.

The property is no longer needed to build, improve or maintain the state highway system. Selling the excess right of way not only brings in extra money for highway projects, but it saves maintenance costs and puts the property back on the tax rolls to the advantage of local communities.

Additional information about the property for sale can be found on MoDOT's Web site,

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