Budget rhetoric

Posted 8/2/17

At their core, budgets are about priorities.  Some Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are reacquainting themselves with that axiom with a little heartburn following Gov. Greitens’ …

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Budget rhetoric


At their core, budgets are about priorities. Some Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are reacquainting themselves with that axiom with a little heartburn following Gov. Greitens’ release of his 2018 budget last week. It wasn’t necessarily the substance of the $27.6 billion budget that caused the discomfort as much as it was the rhetoric that accompanied the unveiling.The telegenic, former Democrat turned Republican with a million dollar smile, declared that the budget was “broken” and that “politicians and insiders” had mismanaged previous budgets and left him with a “mess” at a news conference in Nixa on Thursday. He also cited Obamacare for a $700 million hole he inherited.Greitens was careful not to name names or single out former Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, for his budget blues. But the broad strokes he used in his remarks rubbed some Republicans, who hold super-majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, and who were complicit in constructing last year’s budget, the wrong way. They would have preferred that he put the blame on Nixon and move on.It appears that Greitens doesn’t care if they were offended. The ex-Navy SEAL says he was hired by the voters to clean up the mess in Jefferson City and that is what he intends to do. If that hits a little too close to home for some — including those in his own party — too bad. You broke it, I’ve come to fix it.It’s clear that the honeymoon between Greitens and the GOP Legislature, if there ever was one, is winding down. Republican lawmakers were always a little wary of the new governor after hot rhetoric on the campaign trail about the corruption and inside dealing in Jefferson City. Budgets, by their very nature, can have a sobering effect on relationships, especially when it’s your program or passion that is being gored.So don’t be surprised if the Legislature pushes back on some of the new governor’s spending recommendations, including $159 million in cuts to higher education. It’s no surprise education took a hit in the new budget. That’s where the biggest pool of general revenue dollars is historically allocated. But while Greitens recommended modest increases in K-12 spending, he took a meat cleaver to higher education. He is defending his cuts, saying that since higher education had received increases over the past four years, it was time they tightened their belts. As we reported in the Weekend Missourian, that could mean a hit of over $300,000 to East Central College on top of earlier withholdings of $400,000. Ouch.But what was even more puzzling to us was some of the rhetoric Greitens used in explaining his budget. He said his spending decisions were intended to help jump-start the state’s economy by adding well-paying jobs so more residents are paying taxes. We would argue that education — especially higher education — is the best economic development tool there is for any community or state. It is often the first criteria site selectors evaluate when looking where to locate a company.Likewise, cutting $17.9 million from the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC) also is misguided when it comes to invigorating the economy and creating new jobs. Gutting the funding of the public-private partnership that has received national accolades for its work in attracting tech start-ups is just plain dumb and demonstrates the governor’s naivete when it comes to economic development.Our state, particularly St. Louis and Kansas City, is gaining a worldwide reputation for attracting and nurturing start-up companies. MTC has played a critical role in this development. It strikes us as antithetical to pare it back if your goal is to create jobs.We hope our local legislators are successful in restoring some, if not all, of East Central College’s state funding. Our view is that every new governor deserves some slack in the beginning of his administration. It’s a big job for someone with experience in state government; it’s an enormous undertaking for someone with zero experience.Greitens has mastered the “outsider” talking points and buzzwords. Now it’s time to see if he can govern.