The 2015 legislative session has progressed to "Spring Break," and while the recent change in the weather is very accommodating to leisure, it will be an opportunity for your representative to "catch-up," mixing work with a number of events and visits with constituents.

The 2015 legislative session has progressed to "Spring Break," and while the recent change in the weather is very accommodating to leisure, it will be an opportunity for your representative to "catch-up," mixing work with a number of events and visits with constituents.

 After re-reading my last Capitol Report which exclusively discussed the tragic events in/around Tyrone, I wanted to make sure that my comments (regarding the media coverage) were clearly understood.  While the urban and national news crews descended on our area (almost instantaneously) to relay the story to their patrons, and in the same fashion as their arrival they left, chasing the next "big" story; while ultimately failing to capture the "complete" story.  Credit should be given to our local outlets that detailed the initial events AND reported the story of a community coming together and rallying to support those affected through vigils, donations, prayer, and the "neighbor helping neighbor" way of life which we know as the rule, rather than the exception.  Healing will remain a slow process, and we should continue praying for the families, law enforcement, and communities as we move ahead.

Executive Branch "Tantrum" -

At a recent "Listening Post" hosted at Fort Leonard Wood to discuss the proposed reduction of 5400+ personnel, I was joined by commissioners from Pulaski, Phelps, and Texas counties, approximately 70 fellow State Representatives, 23 State Senators, the Secretary of State, Attorney General, Governor Nixon, U.S. Representative Hartzler, U.S. Senators Blunt and McCaskill, and about 2,500 additional members of the community; all of which understand what Fort Leonard Wood means to our area locally and to our country from a national security perspective.  This was one of the most impressive displays of broad-based support for any issue facing our state, with excellent points and numerous comparisons to other installations, showing the value at the local, state, and national level for keeping these jobs here at Fort Leonard Wood.  At the start of the session, one of the points that I found most interesting was the "why" of these proposed reductions; reportedly as a result of "Sequestration," (the agreement reached in an effort to reduce the Federal spending/debt, with automatic implementation in the event of inaction) but most notable to me is how/where this Administration is CHOOSING to cut costs.  The overwhelming majority (of taxpayers/legislators alike) agree that the path of our Federal spending is on an unsustainable trajectory and should be reined in. 

This is where the Executive Branch game (tantrum) begins; rather than identifying areas that are wasteful or are otherwise a poor value to the taxpayer, they propose cuts in areas (such as Fort Leonard Wood) that they are well aware will have very real and rippling affects in our lives and communities; and thus create a public outcry in opposition.  Rather than reducing bloated government spending (in the many unwarranted areas that government has decided to involve itself), the only solution they deem reasonable is increasing taxes, which increases the load on an already over-burdened taxpayer.  I find this both annoying and insulting, but this sort of a tantrum isn't limited to the federal level.

 

Consider the parallel situation that we're seeing play out in Missouri relative to transportation funding, and the recent "325 System Plan" proposed by MoDOT, with the recent public relations campaign that has ensued (who do you think is "footing the bill" for this also?).  While this has been proposed under the guise of "reduced" funding available for transportation, this comes as the direct result of the voters rejecting Amendment #7 last August, which most will remember as the largest tax increase in Missouri history that would have predominantly created a third lane on each side of I-70 from St. Louis to Kansas City, while doing very little (if anything) to address infrastructure needs across out-state Missouri, and more specifically in our area.  Regardless of whether it was due to the sheer size of the tax increase, the type of (sales) tax, the way that MoDOT spends its current dollars, or the intention to spend the majority of the money exclusively on I-70; for a variety of reasons, the voters said "NO."  Predictably and as a result, the Executive Branch tantrum has begun.  The messaging campaign surrounding the "325 Plan" contains  "TOUGH CHOICES" (all caps, for emphasis), bridge closures, and the threat that only 25% of Missouri's roads will be maintained moving forward; each of which are intended to stir concern and influence public opinion to the point of finding the next proposal (tax increase) acceptable.  While "Multimodal" spending represents a significant amount of their annual budget (bicycle signs, bicycle lanes/trails, sidewalks, light rail, etc.), there has been no interest or movement to reduce spending in these areas or to shift that funding to the focus of their 325 campaign (roads and bridges).  What about the millions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on "Habitat Mitigation Credits" (similar to and a derivative of "cap and trade"; a focus of my HB955, to be discussed in an upcoming report) or the lobbying/liaison staff funded with your tax dollars (who incidentally also advocate for more of those dollars)?  The point is, rather than develop a reasonable plan by redirecting funding away from the numerous initiatives that aren't a priority or benefit for most taxpayers, the false choice is provided - "more money, or else." 

 

In fairness, this situation hasn't been created by our local MoDOT workers, the taxpayer, or the legislature.  Previous MoDOT Directors/administrations/commissioners have essentially "borrowed [bonded]" the agency into this position (with the notes now becoming due), and the current administration should shoulder the responsibility for its "or else" tantrum response.

 

Budgets are a matter of priorities, with transportation and public defense being core governmental functions (that the majority want adequately funded).  While it doesn't seem to bother the Executive Branch (state or federal) to ask for more of your hard-earned dollars, at the very least they should be forthright on where our dollars are currently spent, (without tantrum style, "the sky is falling" messaging) which often doesn't coincide with the service they are threatening to reduce/eliminate.  

As always, please do not hesitate to call or write me anytime with your questions or thoughts on this or any other issue. My Capitol office is 573.751.1490 and my email is Robert.Ross@house.mo.gov.  Thank you for the honor to serve as your Representative in the Missouri House of Representatives.