The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 28, 2013

Other Views: Judging by motto

The Washington Missourian

— The start of every legislative session is similar to the start of every baseball season — hope springs eternal. But by the end of the session, there is usually a sense of relief that the whole affair is over.

That was the case again this year.

The session, which began in January with a Republican promise of a “Triple E” agenda of economic development, energy policy and education, ended with Democrats describing it as a triple dose of extremism.

A few meaningful bills passed, many more failed and there were even more missed opportunities by our state legislators, especially with respect to their top goals. In short, it was a fairly typical legislative session.

But was the session a success? That depends on who is doing the scoring. To be sure, Republican legislators served up the obligatory accolades calling it a success and “historic” while Democrats criticized it as “an abject failure.”

One way we like to measure the session is by judging it against the state’s motto, “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.”

They honored the motto with respect to a few issues, including finally passing legislation to fix the state’s bankrupt Second Injury Fund. The 70-year-old fund that covers workers with pre-existing injuries has been insolvent for a number of years with unpaid claims of more than $28 million to more than 1,000 injured workers. Lawmakers deserve credit for getting this done.

Republicans are also claiming credit for passing the first corporate and personal income tax cut in over 90 years. The new tax law would make some major changes to the state code over the next decade and is projected to reduce state revenues by about $700 million annually when it is fully phased in.

The Legislature should have taken this opportunity to overhaul the system for the better by simply flattening the brackets and modernizing the tax code.

It may not matter. Gov. Jay Nixon has signaled he may veto the legislation.

If the cuts do indeed result in devastating cuts to schools, public safety, parks, and other services throughout the state as critics project, then we would argue the welfare of the people has not been served.

The Legislature missed another opportunity to serve the welfare of the people when it failed to pass a transportation bill that would put a 1-cent transportation tax on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide.

But the biggest missed opportunity this past session was the Legislature’s failure to pass a Medicaid expansion bill.

Political ideology trumped pragmatism in both the transportation tax and Medicaid expansion failures. Both would have created jobs and stimulated the economy. The Medicaid expansion would have added about 300,000 more Missourians to the rolls.

The Washington Missourian