Missouri’s State of the Bloating State
Earlier this month, I expressed my general optimism that Missouri’s 2023 legislative session would be a good one, focused on transparency and reform. Now after the governor’s State of the State address yesterday, I’m not so sure. The word “transparency” showed up zero times in the governor’s prepared remarks, and the word “reform” showed up twice—once in a heading that had seemingly nothing to do with the section’s content, and once referring to a past jobs program. Such thin gruel is especially shocking, given the governor’s own regrets about the transparency and reform initiatives that didn’t pass last year.
But boy, is there a lot of spending—some of which might be justified, such as expanding Interstate 70—but the emphasis on expanding government made the speech basically indistinguishable from a speech by a tax-and-spend liberal. The governor didn’t propose a single meaningful change to the state’s failing education system or suggest a single reduction in government. Nothing about further tax cuts. Nothing about anything truly aspirational, reform minded, or geared toward good governance at all.
It’s understandable that the governor would want to pursue some form of legacy initiative or project near the end of his final term. Frankly, redoing I-70 should be plenty. But programs that permanently expand the reach of Missouri’s welfare state—like a universal pre-K program that the Heritage Foundation has eviscerated time and again—run completely against the small government view that many politicians in Missouri had historically given lip service to.
Perhaps in future speeches and press availabilities, the governor will expand upon his State of the State remarks, adding back in some of the reform-minded small government conservatism. The legislature has been advocating for a variety of these small government reforms, and I thought the governor’s office was in agreement. The governor can, and should, do better.