Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Concerns of Missouri’s Budget

By Rep. Dan Brown
Missouri District 149

Most legislative sessions in Missouri’s General Assembly begin in earnest and end in a fury, but this year will require hard work all of the way through.

The biggest debates this year will most likely revolve around jobs, the economy, and funding. Missouri, like most of the states, is facing serious budget woes as the year begins. It will take every member of the General Assembly and the Governor working together to find ways to fund our most vital programs and departments without placing more of a tax burden on our families, workers, and small businesses. The people in the 149th District have had to cut back and tighten their belts in this economy and I feel wholeheartedly that the State of Missouri must do the same. It is vital that we live within our means and don’t rely on borrowed money. The Governor should have second thoughts about saying, “If there’s debt, Missouri kids and grandkids will pay that debt off”. This is a very troubling statement and I feel that this burden should not be passed onto our next generation.

I feel the best way to find our way out of the fiscal wilderness is to do everything we can to promote job growth. In the last year, nearly 62,000 Missourians have seen their jobs disappear, which equals almost 170 Missourians losing their job every day. Our unemployment rate has grown to 9.6 percent, which is it’s highest in a quarter of a century. This must stop and stop now. That is why my primary concern and legislative priority is jump-starting Missouri’s lagging economy. We must get government out of the way and make Missouri attractive to businesses and investments of all sizes, whether a firm employs five people or five hundred.

One of the best ways to expand business opportunities in our area is to make sure our rural businesses have access to high speed internet. I will work with my colleagues here in Jefferson City as well as our federal officials in Washington to see this happen.

Despite our budget troubles, we must keep our promises to our teachers and students by giving them every dollar they deserve. I thank the Governor for his commitment to the Career Ladder system that rewards our teachers for going above and beyond the call for our students. This vital program is so very important to our rural school districts and must be kept in tact. However, I do take exception to some very severe cuts in the Governor’s proposed budget that would cut many other programs in both our K-12 and higher education system. The Governor’s current proposal underfunds our schools by almost $88 million, which will force local schools to cut programs or raise local taxes. Among these are cuts in Parents as Teachers and the near disappearance of our online education programs that have had great success with educating students. I plan to work tirelessly with representatives from both sides of the aisle to make sure we give our students the tools to succeed and provide our teachers with the resources to inspire greatness.

Rolla’s own Missouri University of Science and Technology is a tremendous part of our district. Missouri S&T not only gives students from all over the globe a world-class education, but it is a vital economic development tool for Rolla and the surrounding area. I will fight day and night to make sure that Missouri S&T gets their piece of the college funding pie.

My final issue in this report, although it is not the last facing the district, is our transportation system. We are fortunate in the 149th District to be serviced by Interstate 44 and Highway 63. But this system is not without serious shortcomings. Highway 63 between Rolla and Westphalia is the most dangerous stretch of highway in Missouri. This is unacceptable. Not only are we losing far too many Missourians to fatalities on this part of the corridor, but its shortcomings are holding the economic progress of the 149th back. A straighter four-lane highway would open up commerce from Iowa to Arkansas and allow all of the 149th and all of central Missouri, to experience economic growth. The added accessibility would make places like Missouri S&T even more attractive, bringing in even more eager minds, more innovation, and faster growth. Seeing this project come to fruition is a top goal of mine.

My guiding principle since coming to Jefferson City to represent you just over a year ago is unchanged: to put the taxpayers first. I am proud to call the 149th District of the Missouri House home and promise to act in good faith for the good people I represent. Although our State faces challenges and uncertainty, Missourians are hardworking people, and together we will face this challenge head on. With hard work, common sense values, and a commitment to those we serve; we can make Missouri a better place for the generations to come.

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