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03 January 2012

Lant: New Year Brings New Challenges, Tours of the Capitol

Well, here we go! We have a new year, a new session, new challenges, and new opportunities. We are looking forward to making a lot of new friends in McDonald County as my District was enlarged to include the entire county. Along with campaigning for re-election, we will also be building a cabin on Elk River this year and looking for a home as well. I'm not too sure what I'll do with my spare time but I'm betting that Jane will find something to keep me busy. I mentioned in an earlier Capitol Report that our major Legislative priority was to balance the budget without raising taxes. We are looking at a shortage of around 600 million dollars that we will have to adjust for. This shortage is not due to wasteful spending in last year's budget. It is a combination of fewer tax dollars coming in and new Federal mandates that cut Medicaid dollars to the States but refuse to let us adjust our expenditures. The answer the Feds give is to raise our State Tax to make up the shortfall. Not hardly! We said we would not raise taxes and that is what we meant. There are still things that we will be able to do without endangering any much needed programs. I was at a Tourism meeting last week and their topic of discussion was how much we can enhance revenues for our local businesses by increasing tourism. Due to the disaster in our area last year, we are known nationwide. There is a great opportunity to market tourism in our part of the world because everyone knows where we are. The various Chambers of Commerce are working together to bring people here and keep them for a few days. There is also an opportunity to market an affordable vacation. Vacationers can come here to tour the National Hatchery, spend an enjoyable day at George Washington Carver Park, Visit the various Historical Museums in Newton and McDonald County and finish off with a fun time at one of the campgrounds with a float or Smallmouth Bass fishing trip. We are extremely blessed to live in and about such abundant beauty and natural wonders that sometimes we take for granted what we have. For someone who has never seen the hanging cliffs at Noel or the view of the valleys from Stangs' at Anderson, or stood in three states at Southwest City, the experience can be awesome.

While I'm on the subject of being blessed, I was in church Sunday and the Pastor was talking about how wonderful it was that our congregation donated to the needy so well last year. In fact, he was pointing out that we had broken records for giving during 2011. I don't usually bet (unless it's on a sure thing) but I'll wager that churches all over the four states had the same experience last year. Even though the disastrous tornado created a need that we all hurried to fill, there were a lot of other needs in our area. Unemployment has created a lot of tight budgets for some folks and I am constantly hearing about some organization or another that is contributing to help out. The wonderful thing about this is that's just who we are. Southwest Missouri has a "can do" attitude that is not present in all the areas in this Country or even in the whole state for that matter. While next year may hold some surprises for us, I am confident that there won't be anything we can't handle.

I hope this coming year also brings a bunch of you to the Capitol. We do have the most beautiful Capitol Building in country and I can arrange tours for any size groups. The best time to come is on a Tuesday or Wednesday as that's when most of the committee hearings and floor debate is conducted. If I have a little notice, I can arrange for trips up to the "Whisper Gallery" above the Rotunda, or for the truly athletic, we can climb the stairs inside the Dome to the very top. The view from outside on top of the Dome is really spectacular. There are also tours available for the Supreme Court, The Governor's Mansion, and the Old Prison. I can help make arrangements for Motel rooms at reasonable rates and there are a multitude of great restaurants nearby.

The coming year also brings us the opportunity to choose who we want to lead us and the direction we want to go in. There will be an endless stream of information about the candidates and their chosen platforms. The media will do their best to form our opinions for us by revealing mistakes and long forgotten statements by the front runners. I really can't imagine why someone would want to expose their families and friends to all the microscopic examinations of their lives that running for President or for that matter the U.S. Senate or House entails. One thing is for certain, we will choose a path in this election that will affect millions of people for many, many years. It is the job of each of us to become informed of the issues, the REAL issues, not whether or not a candidate has a great hairdo or impresses Iowa farmers with their ability to call hogs, and make a decision about who can best lead our Country into the future. Each generation there is a pivotal point where the American citizens decide the direction they want our country to go in. That time is upon us now and with good old common sense and God's help, we'll end up doing the right thing.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative and please don't hesitate to call me if you feel there is anything I can do for you. I'm sure I will see many of you soon as campaigning for me is also just around the corner. Meanwhile, I am, and remain, in your service.

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