Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 180
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for March 6, 2003

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

They’re playing games in Jeff City again. That’s no surprise, but the form the game is taking is a bit unusual. Typically, whenever a government at any level finds a need for more money, it threatens to cut the most popular services. That’s what school boards have done for years when threatening to cut band or football if the public doesn’t pony up for the next levy increase.

For years, Missouri was controlled by one political party. Intra-party differences between urban and rural areas were more significant in spending decisions and compromises. Even when the other party held most statewide offices, the legislature was firmly in the control of the Democrats. For a bit over 8 years, the Democrats controlled both the legislative and executive branches, and state spending rose as fast as the Hancock Amendment would allow. Republicans collaborated on the spending growth, as long as their constituencies got some of the money.

Now real revenue is down and both parties rue their recent extravagance in creating new ways to spend money. Each party’s game now is to protect its own constituencies and make the other party look cruel, heartless or venal. However, it’s difficult to do this when there is less money to go around. So, enter the “football and band” analogy; the Governor cuts education, since that’s both the biggest user and the most valued service. He says he has no choice because the other party supported tax cuts in prior years.

Now, it’s true we had a number of state tax cuts, such as the elimination of the first 3% of the sales tax on groceries. The options were to cut taxes or refund the overage as required by the Hancock Amendment, since state tax collections were increasing faster than personal income – perhaps related to increased consumer and business debt. Had taxes not been cut, government might be doing a bit better now, but individuals would certainly be worse off.

As part of the game, state employees have been told not to volunteer programs for cuts. Whoever identifies the program to be cut gets the blame from the program’s constituents. The Democratic political appointees who head the various executive departments need to make the legislature find and eliminate programs so the Republicans can be blamed. Either party would do the same – it’s the Jeff City blame game.

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