Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Missouri and the stimulus plan

By Dan Brown

State Representative

District 149


You can’t turn on the news these days without hearing about the Federal Stimulus Plan and the billions of dollars that the President and Congress is handing out to the nation. Over and over again we’ve heard about how the dollars are going to help us recover during these tough economic times. Missouri’s Governor has already pledged to “use every cent” of the funds without reading through the bill completely and studying each proposal. There are many parts of the federal plan that have some serious strings attached – strings that would re-write the law in our State. You can be confident that the Missouri House isn’t going to commit to anything without giving thoughtful consideration to how we can use the funds to best benefit our citizens. The Missouri House is going to inject a dose of common sense and fiscal responsibility into this process which is something that has been lacking from the Official Office of the Governor.

Republican leaders have expressed great concern with many parts of the Stimulus Package. I assure you, using caution for this is a good thing. Too many people want to label it as free money and criticize anyone who wants to carefully and responsibly approach the bill in detail. It is important to realize, there are legitimate red flags that come along with these dollars. For example, this week we learned our State will receive federal dollars if we modify our current unemployment compensation laws. This would involve extending benefit periods and opening benefits to individuals not eligible under current law. While the one-time dollars could allow for it this year, we won’t see those extra dollars in the future. When the federal dollars run out, it falls back on Missouri to foot the bill, meaning we would have to raise taxes on businesses in order to afford the federal program next year and the next. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again - no new taxes! The House is firmly committed to fighting this sort of irresponsible and shortsighted planning. We will not take a federal bribe to expand programs and change State laws unless it’s the best solution for Missouri citizens.

The Missouri Family Recovery Plan Fund and the Economic Stimulus Fund will hold these dollars separate from Missouri’s general revenue so we can keep accurate track of how the funding is used. I believe this adds a level of accountability and transparency to the way we utilize the federal package.

While we are still ironing out details and much uncertainty remains, you can be certain we are going to use these dollars responsibly. And we will do everything we can to ensure these one-time dollars are devoted primarily to one-time projects. Our State cannot afford to expand programs only to find we can’t afford them down the line. We’re here to make our State better for future generations, not to go on a spending spree now only to saddle our kids and grandkids with debt.

Again, thank you for your concerns. This is your State government. Help me keep it that way by keeping me informed. Please feel free to contact me at 573-751-5713 or by email at dan.brown@house.mo.gov.

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