GUEST COLUMN: Dialogue important to ensure nobody left out in tough economic times

Friday, February 20, 2009 | 4:24 p.m. CST; updated 11:10 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Across Missouri, families are setting priorities and making difficult choices. Many are having serious discussions across kitchen tables about how their core values will guide them as they make decisions about work, spending and saving. Out of love, parents will sacrifice for children, adult children for parents and siblings, and extended family will help those who cannot help themselves. A caring and strong family will be honest with each other, as fair as they can be and will understand that to remain healthy, not one person can be left out.

The budget of our state is also a family discussion. A budget is a moral document based on core values that must guide us as we set priorities and make difficult choices. With Missouri and our nation in the midst of an economic crisis, there is much danger that some of our most vulnerable citizens will get less than they need and that some of our family members and neighbors will be left out.

But Missouri does have other alternatives. As an old proverb says, the difference between heaven and hell is whether we are willing to feed each other. With that in mind, we have founded The Long Spoons Coalition, a statewide effort by people of faith to promote in-depth dialogue about the 2009 budget process, our tax system, unmet community needs, and current and proposed cuts to life-saving services.

If this sounds like a dialogue you want to join, here are three things you can do:

1. Call, write or visit your state representative, your state senator and Gov. Jay Nixon. Let them know about people who are hurting in your community. Tell them about the lost or endangered jobs, high utility and housing costs, lack of access to health care and affordable child care, and the needs that go unmet in your public schools. Help them know what's at stake as the budget for the next fiscal year is shaped.

2. Join The Long Spoons Coalition to speak out together with people of faith and citizens of good will. Read our principles at the link labeled "Join Coalition" at Or request an informational packet by phoning 573-635-2689.

3. Go to the Missourians for Tax Justice Web site at to learn more about our current unfair, inadequate and outdated tax system and changes that need to be made. Then, speak out with us in support of House Bill 567, the Tax Justice for a Healthy Missouri tax revision plan.

Given a voice in the process, we believe that the people of Missouri will support spending our hard-earned tax dollars to save lives and promote the common good. Given a choice, we believe that the people of Missouri will choose to contribute to and help each other with fiscally responsible and accountable programs that provide education, grow jobs and make access to health care within the reach of every member of our Missouri family. Let's speak out together now, while there's still time to influence the state budget decisions that become final in May.

This column was written by the Rev. John Bennett, outreach coordinator, Missouri IMPACT, Jefferson City; Rabbi Susan Talve, St. Louis; and state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, Missouri House District 59, St. Louis. This column was distrubuted by Missourians for Tax Justice.

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