Republicans have criticized the Biden administration’s pandemic stimulus spending as wasteful, and today they point to that cash injection as a major factor in rising inflation. These arguments are not unreasonable. Unless, of course, the party that created them turns around and suggests that Missouri should distribute its excess stimulus funds to taxpayers rather than bolster needed public services — which is what Missouri’s ruling Republicans are now suggesting.
The problem arises as a result of the problem every state government likes to have: Missouri is currently looking at a projected budget surplus of up to $3 billion by the end of next year, mostly due to cash unspent federal stimulus.
At least two pending plans from Republicans in the Legislature would funnel that money to Missouri taxpayers in the form of one-time checks for $500 per person, deliberately draining much of the surplus.
Proponents do not present these plans as an economic stimulus but as a gesture of tax cuts and small government conservatism. A group of legislative supporters said they “do not support the idea of spending every available dollar to increase the size of government, but rather believe that the people of Missouri are the best decision makers on how to spend the money of their taxes”.
It would be a reasonable position if Missouri even carried out its basic responsibilities as a state government — but it doesn’t. There are many areas where the state fails to provide minimum services.
Teachers in Missouri, for example, are grossly underpaid, ranking in the bottom 10 states by average salaries.
The state starting base salary for teachers is $25,000. Gov. Mike Parson wants to raise that to $38,000, but he’s being pushed back by his fellow Republicans in the legislature — some of the same voices calling for distributing all that extra money to taxpayers at every level, whether grossly underfunded. paid or not. .
State social workers are also underpaid and understaffed, especially child social workers.
The Kansas City Star reported last month that social workers are having such a hard time keeping up with their caseloads due to understaffing that some child abuse allegations that are likely valid are being dismissed as unsubstantiated just to get them out of the system.
It is a preventable tragedy waiting to happen.
Yet the priority of the legislator is to redistribute the excess money to the taxpayers instead of hiring more social workers and paying them better?
Other examples abound of Missouri’s inability to adequately pay and staff crucial professions and services.
It is naturally tempting, in an election year, for legislators to present checks to their constituents.
But those same voters are ill-served when their state government is kept on a starvation diet so politicians can offer voters an assortment.
This was first published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and is reprinted with permission.