The Missouri General Assembly has begun the 2014 session. After years of gridlock and infighting, this could be the year that the legislature takes real action for the state.
At least, we can hope. We expressed the same hope last year.
Our local legislators have given their priorities for the session, as has Speaker of the House Tim Jones of Eureka. While some have ambitious agendas, others are more targeted in their goals.
We also have a list of legislative priorities we would like to see the legislature achieve.
Our top priority is, as it has been for the past several years, the economy. Many of our other priorities hinge on the state’s economic picture improving, while some could contribute to that improvement.
Apparently, our readers agree with that priority. In a recent online — albeit completely unscientific — poll, more than half the 334 respondents chose the economy as the issue they would put at the top of Missouri’s legislative agenda. Coming in second, with nearly a quarter of the votes, was Medicaid.
The most important step the General Assembly can take is to be fiscally responsible — to balance the budget without putting a burden on our citizens, businesses and schools.
That is not an easy task, but by careful consideration of bonding and tax credits the legislature could create an atmosphere of economic support for communities and infrastructure that would, in turn, promote new and expanding business in Missouri.
Investment in the state — our workforce, our schools, our transportation system, and even our safety net programs — becomes an investment in business. But asking citizens to pay more in taxes or cutting taxes, which would also cut resources for the above mentioned, does not appear to be the best investment.
We would ask our lawmakers to focus on other economic initiatives.
Medicaid expansion is one initiative that could have a big impact on the economy. At least one legislator, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, has supported Missouri joining the 25 states that have accepted the federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.
It is time to take a serious look at how such a move could help the state’s bottom line — regardless of the political clamor.
Copyright The Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.