The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 10, 2014

Phill Brooks, columnist: State lacks radical ideas

— A recent suggestion raised during Senate debate on restructuring the higher education funding system made me realize how rare it is for Missouri government leaders to restructure the basic services of government to better fit modern times.

On a major level, a radical restructuring of state services has been accomplished only once in four decades. And interestingly, it included the issue raised in that Senate debate.

Senate Appropriations Chair Kurt Schaefer suggested that rather than a funding formula, it might be a better approach to restructure the entire higher education system.

The Columbia Republican argued that partial consolidation of the competing higher education institutions could save money by reduced administrative overhead, reduced duplication of programs and reduced competition among schools for state funds. I’ve not heard that kind of suggestion for a single, or two-tier, education system like California in decades. And it caused me to wonder why this kind of radical idea so often is unsuccessful.

Just four years ago, the Senate’s top leader launched a “Rebooting Government” initiative that involved an extensive review of how major state services could be restructured.

That vision of Sen. Charlie Shields accomplished little except for a lingering “Rebooting Government” page on the Senate’s website.

A few decades earlier, Missouri’s secretary of state endorsed a constitutional convention to restructure state government. Almost no attention was paid to James Kirkpatrick’s endorsement of the issue that is put on the ballot every 20 years.

Years later, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway suggested giving the governor’s administration budget authority to fundamentally restructure state programs. The idea of a GOP-controlled legislature giving that kind of power to a Democratic administration easily was scuttled by the Legislature.

These are but a few of the radical ideas that have died on the vine. It’s not as if our state is not facing questions that suggest the need for radical answers.

What about a highway system that transportation officials warn they no longer can afford?

What about the state’s failure to maintain an accredited education system for urban-area children?

What about finding a better approach for the state’s welfare system? After passage of President Bill Clinton’s welfare-to-work federal program, some Missouri legislators suggested merging the state’s unemployment and work force systems with welfare programs to put a greater focus on helping those on welfare move into productive jobs. Nothing happened on that idea.

What about consolidating the separate and somewhat competing departments of education and higher education? The Senate passed that idea in 2010, but it died in the House. Supporters argued the current structural separation made no sense in the modern educational environment with public schools offering college-level courses, the growth of vocational schools, community colleges and online programs.

As for the one time I saw a fundamental structural change in Missouri government, it was the complete reorganization of state government’s executive branch in the early 1970s. Hundreds of independent programs were consolidated into the department structure we have today.

It started under the administration of Gov. Warren Hearnes with creation of an outside, non-governmental commission to come up with recommendations. It was nicknamed the “Little Hoover Commission” because it had the same governmental reorganization objectives of President Harry Truman’s Hoover Commission.

The state commission’s report led to a constitutional amendment that was implemented by Hearnes’ successor, Kit Bond.

Now, however, term limits make that kind of long-term reorganization more difficult.

Just four years after the launch of “Rebooting Government,” Shields, along with more than one-half of his colleagues, has left the Senate.

Interestingly, one of the major Little Hoover Commission recommendations that failed was for the creation of a single governing board over all of the state’s colleges and universities. It was killed after intense lobbying by higher education institutions, particularly the University of Missouri.

Phill Brooks has been a Missouri Statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the Statehouse press corps. He is the Statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and a faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Other Views Other Views: Eroding court’s authority

    While Kansans were focused on the twists and turns of school finance this past week, lawmakers made an unnecessary and historic change in how the state’s district courts operate, coercively tying the reforms to badly needed funding.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Travesty

    What a travesty that a terrific young man from Spain is on the verge of deportation even though he has proven his worth in America (Globe, April 13).

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: Astonishing transformation

    The transformation of the Republican Party in the last decade is astonishing.

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: The changing view

    It is heartbreaking to hear the decades old trees (which border on South Pennsylvania in Webb City) cracking and being bulldozed down.

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Safe and sound

    Of the 7,500 Joplin and Duenweg homes hit by the 2011 EF-5 tornado, fewer than 20 percent of them had basements.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Funding for state’s roads

    Missouri is finding there is no good alternative to growing the economy, adding new well-paying jobs and expanding the tax base.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Government without apology or explanation

    Americans feel closest to their Uncle Sam at this time of year as he extends his hand for his “fair share” to fund his numerous endeavors.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Step aside

    The people of Joplin made it clear they wanted change at City Hall with their decisive votes to replace two council members.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Serious drawbacks

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) lays out clearly and persuasively the serious drawbacks with so-called right-to-work legislation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Free choice

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) regarding right-to-work seems to assume that if workers are given the choice of joining a union, they won’t join.

    April 16, 2014

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Poll

A Missouri Senate committee has endorsed a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. The proposed constitutional amendment passed the House earlier this month. If passed by the full Senate, the measure would head to the November ballot for voter approval. Would you vote in favor of it?

Yes.
No.
     View Results
Facebook
NDN Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Sports