One Last State Of The State Post-Mortem
This week, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his sixth “State of the State” address to the Missouri Legislature, where he set out his agenda for 2014. We all want to make this state a better place to live, but taxpayers should have serious concerns about the plans the governor detailed. (I commend to you James Shuls’ and Michael Rathbone’s blog posts for more.)
First, the governor is moving in precisely the wrong direction on tax policy. In his speech, the governor congratulated the legislature for creating nearly $2 billion in refundable tax credits for Boeing last year. “We didn’t win the biggest prize,” the governor said of the state’s failed bid, “but we competed at the highest level.”
By and large, tax credits are ineffective and inefficient to promoting substantive growth — risky experiments, if you will — and last year, the governor said about as much. In his 2013 address, the governor railed against the state’s out-of-control, multi-billion dollar tax credit system for six paragraphs. In 2014, he devoted all of 18 words — one sentence — to the issue, and held up what could have been the biggest giveaway of taxpayer money in state history as an example of progress, not regression.
But that’s what it was: regression. Why should the state support corporate handouts like the one for Boeing, but actively deny tax relief to the family businesses in our communities?
Second, substantive Medicaid reform should be the top health care issue in Missouri, not a costly expansion. The governor’s proposal would lock the state into billions of dollars in new Medicaid spending over the next decade without a plan to pay for it, and that’s a bad deal for taxpayers.
Not only is the current Medicaid program wasteful, but the access and quality of care available to Medicaid enrollees is simply deplorable. We should be reforming this multi-billion dollar program, not making it bigger.
Even the education proposal is beset by the same “spend first, ask questions later” mindset. Missouri education funding has marched upward over the last few decades, and yet in terms of student achievement, our children remain stuck in the middle. From 1992 to 2008, Missouri saw an increase in per-pupil spending of 40 percent . . . and yet student achievement has remained basically flat.
That isn’t a spending problem. Our kids deserve to have the best education, and one of the best ways to achieve that is through school choice and competition. The governor’s address made no mention of such reforms — his focus was on simply spending more. That’s wrongheaded.
Wide-ranging reform, not wide-ranging new spending, should lead the state’s agenda in 2014. I hope that is what we will see.