The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

February 4, 2013

Tom Flanigan, guest columnist: Nixon wrong about what is ‘right’ for Missouri

JOPLIN, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon delivered his annual State of the State address Monday, highlighting his and the Democratic Party’s stance on entitlement programs — specifically Medicaid. Medicaid is an $8 billion program, which he’s advocating be expanded by another $1 billion. His talking points are:

“It’s the right thing to do.”

“It’s the smart thing to do.”

And that’s the depth of his argument.

For $1 billion, we, as a Legislature, expect more details, and Missourians should, too. Many in the Legislature, including myself, oppose the expansion of this entitlement, and here’s why:

The Missouri electorate has consistently reminded government officials that it will not accept tax increases, it does not favor Obamacare, nor has it supported those who have advocated either one.

President Obama lost Missouri in back-to-back presidential elections, and in 2012, Nixon campaigned on a theme of “no new taxes” — he never mentioned Obamacare or Medicaid expansion when making his case to the people.

In 2010, Proposition C, which rejects Obamacare, was passed overwhelmingly in Missouri to the tune of 70 percent of the vote. Last year, Proposition B — a proposed tax increase on cigarettes that would support education — also failed.

None of the advocates of the expansion have addressed how to pay for the expansion once Missouri’s share kicks in — an amount that will cost you and me hundreds of millions of dollars.

Next to social-program spending, which comprises almost one-third of Missouri’s current $24 billion budget, education is our largest expenditure. Our kids — our future job creators, employers and researchers — would see less funding per capita in the classroom if this shortsighted expansion is passed.

An economic analysis on the impact of Medicaid expansion was released late last year by the University of Missouri. Some have taken these figures as gospel. New jobs, they say. New tax revenue from new spending, they say. The problem with this thinking is glaring: It fails to account for where the source of the money and the economic implications.

This is not new money — it is borrowed, and it will ultimately come from our residents and our businesses. When people and businesses are required to give money to the government, that money cannot be spent in the private sector, invested in the future or saved for a rainy day.

Proponents conveniently ignore this inevitable economic squeeze. Let’s not forget that our federal government is making fiscal promises without passing a budget and by borrowing 40 cents of every $1.

Nixon finds it easy to call it “the right thing to do,” but I’m here to make responsible decisions. Nixon and his allies may be comfortable telling only half the story, but I’m here to be honest with you. I will not support this shortsighted, bankrupting idea.

The Legislature will be realistic and pragmatic. The right thing to do is to support limited government, better tax policy and growth strategies that encourage entrepreneurship and economic development.

That’s the right thing to do. That’s the smart thing to do.

Tom Flanigan is a Republican representing the 163rd District. He is chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Health, Mental Health and Social Services and is vice-chairman of the Budget Committee.

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