Mo. legislators paying no attention to issues at hand

Saturday, January 12, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:50 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kennedy is a professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism.

Welcome to Panderfest 2008, aka the legislative session.

The lobbyists have hardly had time to crack open the booze, and already the emissions from Jefferson City are adding to global warming if not to the welfare of the state.

If we are to believe the emanations from both parties, Missouri’s major problems are excessive taxation and illegal immigration. In fact, of course, we live in one of the lowest-tax states in the union, and illegal immigrants are about equal in number to the population of Cape Girardeau, and no more troublesome.

It appears that, when what we really need is more revenue to improve state services, both parties will be looking for ways to cut taxes, especially for veterans and senior citizens. As a member of both those highly deserving groups, I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift-bearing legislator in the mouth; but what about funding the schools and health care and infrastructure first?

On the equally popular bash-the-immigrant front, Gov. Blunt wants to hunt them down. Attorney General Nixon wants to nail their employers. Neither costs much money, so look for legislative approval.

To be fair, the Boy Governor has more on his mind. Former Missourian city editor Virginia Young reports in the Post-Dispatch that the governor’s “Insure Missouri” plan would use mainly federal dollars to cover thousands who were cut from the Medicaid rolls by the same governor two years ago. Young also reports, however, that neither Republican legislators, who haven’t been consulted by the governor, nor Democrats, who think he’s still being stingy, are happy.

Meanwhile, the lad went skipping from town to town last Tuesday to promote his anti-smoking initiative. That one includes, according to The Associated Press, $1 million to expand “a statewide hot line for problem smokers.”

The governor does, to his credit, want to increase the higher education budget and put more money into scholarships. The Democrats in the legislature, to their credit, want bigger increases in both.

It may not be pure coincidence that the governor, the attorney general, all 163 members of the House and half the 34 members of the Senate are running for either re-election or higher office this year. Young points out that at least four legislators (including our own Jeff Harris) are running for attorney general. One has even switched parties, from Republican to Democrat, to do that.

Call me a wild-eyed liberal, but I can’t help wishing that somebody would stand up and point out that the huge problems our state faces are going to require more money, not less, to solve. I can’t help wishing that somebody would commit to joining most of the other Midwestern states in combating global warming. I can’t help wishing that somebody would concede that we’re all in this mess, mainly of our own making, together.

Instead, I suspect that Tom Villa, a term-limited legislator from St. Louis, is correct in the prediction he offered Virginia Young: “You’ll see ideas that are just pure folly, but they sound good for politics.”

We Missourians are a tough bunch. We’ve survived legislatures and elections before, but I can’t help wishing this one gave us more to anticipate than to dread.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor of the Missourian.

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