Governor Nixon’s State of the State Address
On Tuesday evening, January 17th, Governor Nixon, the Missouri State Supreme Court Judges, statewide elected officials, the Missouri Senate and Missouri House welcomed the Governor for his annual State of the State Address. The theme of the address was “Missouri Moving Forward.” Governor Nixon addressed the promise of not increasing taxes, more cuts to government spending by reducing the payroll, and adding jobs to Missouri. However, his plans will still lead to shortfalls. The Governor targeted higher education, proposing cuts in their budget of nearly 13%. There is major concern that these cuts to higher education could lead to universities raising their tuitions significantly.
Other aspects of the Governor’s speech echoed the sentiment expressed in the House’s “Blueprint for Missouri” plan issued at the start of session. The aspects include making government more efficient and holding the line on taxes to aid in the economic recovery. However, these words are not new. I hope that the words of the Governor materialize into real outcomes for Missourians.
Taxpayer Protection Act
This week the Missouri House passed HJR 43, the Taxpayer Protection Act. While we work on balancing the budget this session, we must also plan for the future by taking steps to make budget shortfalls less likely in the coming years. The Taxpayer Protection Act is a step toward accomplishing this goal.
When times are good and the budget is flush with money, past legislatures have used the revenue windfall to increase the size and scope of government. The Taxpayer Protection Act limits growth by tying any increase in the budget to population growth plus the rate of inflation. Any money left over after the adjustment is saved for times when the budget is short. However, there is one exception—elementary and secondary education.
HJR 43 allows extra funding to be included in future budgets if that money goes toward fully funding the school foundation formula. This allows us to keep our promise to Missouri children while keeping your state government as lean as possible.
Opponents of this resolution say it takes away the flexibility of legislators to provide funding for future new programs. I would say to those opponents that future legislatures will have somewhere around $25 billion to spend annually – find the money for new programs in there.
HJR 43 now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
The Judiciary Address
Chief Justice Richard Teitelman was welcomed into the Chamber for the 39th State of the Judiciary Address on Wednesday, January 18th. He urged lawmakers to pass measures to reduce the number of non-violent people in prison for parole and probation violations. These changes could save the state $16.6 million over five years and reduce the state prison population by two percent. The legislature has been studiously reviewing such proposals relating to non-violent offenders since late last year.
Appropriations Committee Hearing
The Appropriations Committee for Health, Mental Health, and Social Services had its first meeting last Thursday. The Committee heard public testimony mostly from various non-profits and other relevant interests that would be directly affected by these appropriations. However, the first testimony we heard was from a constituent
of the 92nd – Dan Amsden.
Mr. Amsden is a private sector businessman who has offered to assist the legislature in any way that he can. To use his words, he is “fed up” with the way our government is run on both the state and national levels. He has worked closely with Rep. Tom Flanigan - chair of the Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health, and Social Services - and me to help our committee. Mr. Amsden read through the budget proposal of the Department of Social Services and gave the committee a few recommendations. His recommendations were largely procedural. In his opinion the budget books provided by the department give zero justification for any expenditure. There are no performance related data to suggest why certain amounts of money are needed to achieve certain outcomes. According to Mr. Amsden, these practices are very out-of-touch with efficient private sector norms and practices.
Mr. Amsden’s testimony echoed in great detail a problem that I have seen with the state budget for far too long. There is very little accountability or merit in awarding funds. The Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health, and Social Services has already taken steps to bring more accountability to the process. We have graphed the trend of each line-item expenditure over the past 5 years. We are going to ask questions about those trends and look for outcome related data to justify why trends, up or down, should or should not continue. This is something other appropriations committees will hopefully adopt in the future.
I thank Dan Amsden for offering his help and coming down to Jefferson City to testify with this important message. I encourage other citizens to get involved in the community and partake in the government that serves you.
Fine Arts Grant Available
The Missouri Arts Council Annual Grant Applications can now be accessed online at: http://www.missouriartscouncil.org/ under the “Get Funding” tab. This is a one-year grant for dance, established institutions, fold arts, mid-sized arts organizations, minority arts, visual arts and theater. There are separate applications available for art education as well as community arts.
I am including this section on constituent comments and concerns as a part of my Capitol Report since I whole heartedly value and encourage citizen participation in our state government. As many of you may or may not know, during the 90s until my first election in 2008, I frequently visited the Capitol to lobby as a citizen for issues relating to children and health care. I believe we as citizens should participate as much as possible in impacting our state.
This week, constituent and friend, Lee Presser, sent me an article he wrote and I would like to share that with you.
Warm Hearted NeighborsBy Lee Presser
During my lifetime, an idea has crept across America that the state has an obligation to maintain the individual when the individual cannot maintain himself. This new philosophy is at odds with our founding traditions. Yes, there is a philosophical argument that we sustain one another. BUT, the claim is one between individuals. We help our neighbor because it is the right thing to do. We know worthy people sometimes need outside assistance from their neighbors. They make a moral claim on our resources, asking us to sustain them until they can again sustain themselves. The choice to act is ours.
Starting a score of years before my birth, the state has rapidly been substituted for neighborly charity. With that substitution of the state for the neighbor, came costly waste and inefficiency. That number now approaches $16 Trillion. The cold touch of the state will never be a substitute for a warm-hearted neighbor.
This Week In Pictures
I met with constituent Barb Keathley (right) and other members of the MO Realtors Association last week to discuss their association’s priorities for the legislative year.
I met with a constituent and neighbor from Cedar Springs who was visiting the Capitol as a citizen lobbyist.
I want to extend my sincerest congratulations to William Post for his elevation to Eagle Scout! William has done many great services for our community to get this honor. His Eagle Scout Project involved creating a storage system for Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in St. Louis. It was a privilege to present him with
a House Resolution commemorating his achievement at the last Manchester Aldermanic meeting.
Rep. Sue Allen Appointed to Committee Charged with
Conducting Comprehensive Review of Missouri Judiciary
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – State Rep. Sue Allen, R-Town & Country, has recently been appointed to the House Special Standing Committee on Judicial Reform. The committee was formed by Speaker Tilly, R-Perryville, to ensure accountability and transparency within the judicial system. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, has been appointed to chair this committee. Tilley said he has asked the members of the committee to take a comprehensive approach to examining the state’s judicial system to determine if any changes should be made by the Missouri General Assembly. Rep Allen is a member of the House Budget Committee and brings budgetary knowledge that will be an asset to this special committee as it looks to reform various aspects of the judicial branch.
“This is an opportunity to do a comprehensive review of the judicial system and ensure that appropriate levels of efficiency, transparency, and accountability are in place,” said Allen. “Over the next few months the committee will work to find any improvements and changes that can be made to ensure that our judicial system is more responsive and accountable to the people of Missouri.”
One issue the committee may address deals with the current boundaries of Missouri’s 45 circuit courts. The boundaries have not been reorganized in more than 40 years while the state’s population has changed and shifted dramatically. The committee may look at ways to make the circuits more compact so that caseloads are more evenly distributed.