GEORGE KENNEDY: Expect conservatives to push for consumption tax, repeal of Prop B

Thursday, December 2, 2010 | 1:08 p.m. CST

High on the list of the many reasons to treasure Chris Kelly — along with his obvious intelligence and general good humor — is his boyish enthusiasm. That was on display again last weekend, as he discussed on the front page of the Columbia Daily Tribune prospects for the upcoming legislative session.

It will be a session with both houses run by the biggest and most conservative Republican majority in recent memory. Newly elected senators are so conservative that they dumped their presumptive leader for being too moderate. In the House, where Chris serves, the speaker is in thrall to tax-hating activist Rex Sinquefield.

Chris, of course, knows all that. Nonetheless, he told the Tribune he plans to again push a bill allowing a public vote on an $800 million bond issue for infrastructure, mainly to benefit the state’s universities. And he’ll join his Columbia colleague Mary Still in arguing for a major increase in the nation’s lowest tobacco tax.

“It could be an opportunity,” he said of the influx of freshmen Republicans. “How could it be worse?”

Let us count the ways.

One of the ways in which the next session will almost certainly be worse than the last was explained in a Post-Dispatch article reprinted in Sunday’s Tribune, just one page behind Chris’ no doubt rhetorical question. In it, lobbyist James Harris promised a renewed effort to destroy our Missouri Plan for selecting judges. Mr. Harris, backed by a wealthy right-wing family from Joplin, would prefer a system that would be openly partisan and susceptible to corruption. This year and last, that campaign failed both in the legislature and as an initiative petition drive.

That’s not the only assault we can expect from the right. Mr. Sinquefield, we must assume, will want action for his money. That is likely to take the form of another effort to replace the state income tax with a higher, wider sales tax, which its proponents misleadingly call the “fair tax.” Oddly enough, that would have the effect of shifting the burden of supporting state government from the wealthier among us to the middle and lower economic classes.

The state’s workers can also expect another attempt to reduce further the protections offered by labor unions. “Right to work” legislation might better be called “right to work longer for less.” Its supporters are more likely to bill by the hour than work by the hour.

The ascendant conservatives are talking, as well, about ways to undo the initiative approved by voters last month to strengthen the laws governing the state’s notorious puppy mills. KBIA reports that Sen. Bill Stouffer has already filed a bill intended to reverse the public’s decision.

As unpalatable as all that will be to us lonely liberals, I have yet to mention the impact of last month’s landslide that fits Keith Olbermann’s definition of “worser.” That’s the decennial redrawing of legislative and congressional districts.

The Revolutionary-era statesman Elbridge Gerry bequeathed his name to the process we’ll see, as nine congressional districts are reshaped into eight and legislative lines are shifted. Gerrymandering is the time-honored tool employed by whichever party controls a legislature to ensure increased success by its candidates in elections for the next decade.

If Democratic districts are colored blue and Republican districts red, come 2012 the political map of Missouri will look like the crowd at a Nebraska football game.

Could it be worse, Chris? Count on it.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Steven Whitaker, CRM December 2, 2010 | 8:01 p.m.

More socialist/marxist drivel.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin December 2, 2010 | 8:12 p.m.

Um, George -- didn't your state treasure Chris Kelly take a whopping $25,000 donation from that bad bad poodycat Rex Sinquefield this last election cycle?

Yes, it looks like he did!

"Kelly’s donation from Sinquefield was unsolicited, but the incumbent representative said he was “pleased” with the contribution."

Nothing against Rep. Kelly or Rex Goliath, but you're not being entirely fair when you mention them exclusive of this substantial financial relationship, one man in the white light of Georgian Love, the other man in the dim light of Kennedy-esque condemnation.

Fortunately, the Rex and Chris story appears to have a happy ending. That Trib article (read it soon, before it vanishes Dec. 1 -- oh, it's past Dec. 1 -- never mind) says Rep. Kelly gave Rex Goliath's money to other Democrats and even Children's Hospital.

Talk about how politics makes strange bedfellows! (And confuses august journalists).

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 3, 2010 | 6:10 a.m.

George, this is not a banana* republic: we have what's called "representative government" here. Voters have expressed their preference for conservatives to be in the majority of that government. The fact that George Kennedy finds the situation undesirable means absolutely nothing - except to George Kennedy.

Have voters made a poor choice? Obviously that can be debated, and is a fit subject for debate. But what we have is what we have - at least until the next election.

*- Aside from plants growing in a greenhouse on the MU campus we don't have many banana trees north of the Missouri River. On the other hand, there are banana trees growing wild in southern Missouri! Chancellor John Carney III was recently seen picking bananas from trees in the back yard of the MS&T chancellor's residence. Bananas located near the MS&T nuclear reactor are rumored to be mildly radioactive. :)

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 3, 2010 | 9:04 a.m.

I find it highly amusing that an eminent journalist such as George Kennedy praises Chris Kelly (a fellow who I put in high regard), then neglects to mention that Chris is possibly the only Democrat in the statehouse that supports the so-called fair tax Missouri plan (Chris does not like the name). I guess that wouldn't go well with George's agenda.

(Report Comment)
George Kennedy December 3, 2010 | 10:02 a.m.

It's true that Rep. Kelly has taken more than one donation from Rex Sinquefield. It's also true that Chris supports the "fair tax," though not, I think, in the form that it has actually been proposed in the legislature. I don't see those facts as contradictory of my predictions about the likely effects of the voters' decision last month. And it is certainly true that my concerns are not universally shared, even among sharp-eyed -- and sharp-tongued -- readers.


(Report Comment)
Nelson Richter December 3, 2010 | 12:27 p.m.

The sad aspect to this whole election is that the people bought the "propaganda" spread by the conservatives and now we have to live with it. Gas prices are already rising as the oil companies know that deregulation can't be far behind; wall street is going up as deregulation will be over turned; tax breaks for everyone will result in cuts to social programs, education that might benefit the middle class. If keeping the tax breaks for the upper 2% will create all these new jobs, then why hasn't this worked over the past eight years? We will continue to fund two wars (how much per day) that will drive us deeper into debt-guess the Cheney notion that the oil revenues would cover the costs didn't work out but I am sure that Haliberton got their cuts. Let's just make the whole state red, have no democrats in government because the republicans know best. I know more liberal drivel!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 3, 2010 | 12:52 p.m.


Looks like it's time to again quote the late Harry Truman (who was, I believe, a Democrat): "If you can't stand the heat it's time to get out of the kitchen."

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 3, 2010 | 12:54 p.m.

Yo Nelson, don't the Democrats still control the Senate and President Obama can still veto legislation, right? And about those two wars, didn't candidate Obama say he was going to get the US out of them? These aren't Cheney and Bush the Younger's wars any longer, Obama owns them now.

(Report Comment)
Robin Nuttall December 3, 2010 | 1:52 p.m.

I happen to be a liberal who is strongly in favor of repealing Proposition B because it will not in any way help dogs in Missouri get more humane treatment, nor will it stop the so-called puppy mills. It only punishes legitimate breeders. And let's remember that Proposition B was defeated in all but something like two statewide, including Columbia.

(Report Comment)

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