Missouri needs to better fund efforts to increase the vaccination rate, to improve health care for all of its citizens, and to boost education and to help Missouri small businesses during the pandemic recovery in our state.
Sound like a big wish list?
Not so much.
Our governor and lawmakers did a good job of belt-tightening during the pandemic, offsetting an anticipated downturn in revenues that turned out to be smaller and briefer than expected.
Add the federal aid coming into state coffers, and our state is flush. There is about $2.8 billion unspent in pandemic relief funds and taxpayer dollars, according to a recent report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Our lawmakers were pleading poverty in their refusal to fund Medicaid expansion while sitting on a pretty fat wallet. (Last Friday, an additional 275,000 Missourians would been eligible for Medicaid if lawmakers had followed the will of the state’s voter.)
Pretending to penury while Missouri has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the nation, and while federal money dedicated to helping small businesses was left idle, is beyond ridiculous.
Further, a recent state audit revealed the state provided so little money to K-12 public schools in 2020 that Missouri was 49th in the nation in state funding for education. That means local sources — property taxes — have to pick up the slack or, all too often, school districts must cut educational programs.
Setting money aside for a rainy day is reasonable, responsible governing. However, failing to put it to work when the floodwaters are rising is an irrational, irresponsible failure to govern.
We fear the dogmatic aversion to government spending has overrun our state’s collective good sense.
It is time to put those idle funds to productive action, time to reverse some of the serious, shameful and, yes, fatal dilemmas the state is facing.
The rain is falling. The waters are rising. Our children are falling behind. Our people are dying.
We have the resources.
Let’s put that money to work. Now.