On Tuesday, January 20th, Governor Nixon gave his State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly. With the exception of his call for Medicaid expansion and his pandering to the approximately 200 union autoworkers bussed in from the Kansas City auto plants, the speech was coolly received by a majority of both parties. Here are a few of the highlights, some good, some bad.
The Governor made the following statements, which I think reflects his lack of trust in our legal and law enforcement agencies:
“We need to reform municipal courts so that all citizens are treated fairly”;
“We need to update the state statute governing deadly force to be consistent with constitutional requirements and U.S. Supreme Court precedent”;
“We must recruit, train and certify professional law enforcement that reflects the diversity of the community it serves.”
The Governor wants to immediately expand Medicaid under the ACA. He erroneously stated that we were paying money to the federal government that we were not recouping do to a lack of expansion, and that money was being spent for other states’ Medicaid. Missouri already receives more than one dollar for every dollar sent from Missouri to the federal government, and there is no set pool of Medicaid money. So if one state does not accept Medicaid expansion money it does not go to another state and is simply money not spent (and not borrowed to be spent!).
The Governor is asking for an additional $150 million for K-12 education and $25 million for higher education. This is despite the fact that he has withheld funding to education the last two years.
The Governor raised the possibility of making I-70 a toll road and increasing the fuel tax to address the shortfall in transportation funding.
The Governor wants to build a new veteran’s home and repair and renovate existing Missouri’s veteran’s homes.
The Governor, after raising millions of dollars over the last six years and will be terming out next gubernatorial election, now endorses campaign ethics reform. I do support ethics reform including eliminating lobbyists gifts (which I have not taken), a waiting period to become a lobbyist after leaving state employment, and better transparency in contribution sources.
Prescribed Burn Workshop
The Department of Conservation is offering a prescribed burn workshop for landowners interested in using prescribed fire to improve grasslands and benefit wildlife habitat. Both workshops are free and will cover all aspects of how prescribed fire can be safely used to benefit wildlife and people. The workshop will be held on February 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the Jasper County Annex Meeting Room in Carthage.
Discover - Trapping Traditions
Location: Walter Woods Conservation Area (5 min south of Wildcat)
Date: Saturday, February 7, 2015, 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM
Discover the heritage of trapping by learning the basics of how to prepare your furs to be sold or tanned. Finishing and drying your own hides can be a very fulfilling way to end your hunting and trapping season. We will cover what a buyer looks for in a quality hide, fleshing, cleaning, stretching, salting, and storing your hides. All equipment will be provided. To register for this program or for more information call 417-629-3423.
My opposition to HB 259, the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act
The Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act creates 3 programs: 1) The Dairy Producer Margin Insurance Premium Assistance Program; 2) The Missouri Dairy Scholars Program and 3) The Commercial Agriculture Program. The annual cost is estimated at between $2.2. and $4.6 million dollars a year and there is no sunset which means the program goes on indefinitely. My main concern is with the Dairy Producer Margin Insurance Premium Assistance Program. Despite its benign name, it is simply a government subsidy program. If a Missouri dairy producer enrolls in the federal dairy insurance program and asks for the assistance under this act, the State of Missouri will unconditionally reimburse the producer for 70% of their federal dairy insurance premium. Reimbursement is not dependent on profit or loss. The dairy producer gets the subsidy even when he makes money. A supporter of the bill last year stated that 7 out of 10 years a dairy farmer makes a profit.
Additionally, the premium assistance does not correct the problem in the dairy industry. In fact, nothing we can do in the State Legislature can correct the problem because it is the result on the failing policies of the US Department of Agriculture. They set the prices producers can charge and they and other US departments regulate all aspects of production.
An analogy for this program is that we are giving blood to a person who is bleeding out from a large open wound and we can’t do anything to stop the bleeding. It is not right that we burden already over taxed Missouri residents with the cost of this failing US government program. Using this logic, are we going to start subsidizing our electric utilities because they are going to be a risk due to the carbon tax and other federal policies?
The proposed funding for this act is from General Revenue of the state, subject to appropriation. Regardless of saying it will come from that portion of General Revenue coming from milk sales—it is still money that is already collected and has been allocated to fund the other needs of the State such as education, senior programs, veterans, and law enforcement.
The agriculture sector is our largest producer of Gross State Product and many of us are not far removed from the family farm, but we have to live in the world that exists today. We don’t subsidize other businesses, including family restaurants or family grocery stores that can no longer compete with corporate competition or exist under federal regulations. The State can’t stop this federal interference in agriculture and let the free market system work, but we also should not compound this interference by cost shifting part of the financial burden directly to our state’s tax payers.