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Editorial Roundup: Missouri

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 13, 2022.

Editorial: Missouri should fund basic government services before passing out surplus cash

Republicans criticized the Biden administration's stimulus spending during the pandemic as wasteful, and today they point to that cash infusion as a major factor in rising inflation. Those arguments aren't unreasonable. Unless, of course, the party making them turns around and suggests that Missouri should pass out its excess stimulus cash to taxpayers rather than shore up needed state services — which is what Missouri's ruling Republicans are suggesting now.

The issue arises as the result of the kind of problem every state government loves to have: Missouri is currently looking at a projected budget surplus of as much as $3 billion by the end of next year, primarily because of unspent federal stimulus money. At least two pending plans by Republicans in the Legislature would pass that money out to Missouri taxpayers in the form of one-time, $500-per-person checks, deliberately draining much of the surplus.

The proponents aren't presenting these plans as an economic stimulus but as a gesture of tax reduction and small-government conservatism. One group of legislative supporters stated that they "do not support the idea of spending every available dollar to increase the size of government, but instead believe individual Missourians are the best decision-makers for how to spend their tax dollars."

That would be a reasonable stance if Missouri was living up to even its basic responsibilities as a state government — but it isn't. There are multiple areas in which the state is failing badly to provide minimal services.

Missouri's teachers, for example, are badly underpaid, ranking in the bottom 10 states in terms of average salaries. The state's starting base pay for teachers is a meager $25,000. Gov. Mike Parson wants to boost that to $38,000, but he's getting pushback from his fellow Republicans in the Legislature — some of the same voices calling for passing out all that extra money to taxpayers across the board, whether they're grossly underpaid or not.

The state's social workers are similarly underpaid as well as understaffed, especially child-welfare workers. The Kansas City Star reported last month that caseworkers are having so much trouble keeping up with their caseloads due to understaffing that some child abuse allegations that are probably valid are being dismissed as unsubstantiated just to get them out of the system. This is an avoidable tragedy waiting to happen. Yet the Legislature's priority is to pass surplus money back to the taxpayers instead of hiring more caseworkers and paying them better?

Other examples abound of Missouri's failure to adequately pay and staff crucial professions and services. It is understandably tempting in an election year for lawmakers to pass out checks to their constituents. But those same constituents are ill-served when their state government is kept on a starvation diet so that politicians can offer a smorgasbord to the voters.

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Jefferson City News Tribune. April 16, 2022.

Editorial: Fitting tribute for Blunt

We welcome a Missouri senator's plan to name Jefferson City's Missouri River bridge after retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, originally wanted to name the Rocheport bridge after Blunt because he secured federal funding for its reconstruction, Missouri News Network reported. But that bridge was already named after Marine Lance Cpl. Leon Deraps, who was killed in Iraq in 2006.

"Given all the work that he has done and brought to this state in the course of his 12 years in the United States Senate and time before that in Congress, this is a fitting way to memorialize his service to this great state," Rowden said.

We agree.

Blunt was a history teacher before being the first Republican to be elected as Missouri's secretary of state in more than 50 years. He also served four years as president of Southwest Baptist University. After being elected to the U.S. House seven times, he won a seat in the Senate in 2011.

In his tenure in Congress, he's served on powerful committees and used that influence to support conservative values. He's voted in favor of school prayer and school vouchers, supported the Second Amendment, opposed a minimum wage hike and earned a 97% rating from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Blunt represented his constituents well. But, at the same time, he's been able to work with the other side of the political aisle, something not common in today's politics. Many of his significant bills have been co-sponsored by Democrats. The Lugar Center of Georgetown University named him No. 11 in its bipartisan index for the 115th Congress in 2017.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said Blunt "has one of the Senate's most conservative voting records, yet he generally avoids the confrontational, firebrand style."

As Blunt finishes his final term in Congress, we thank him for his service. And we urge state lawmakers to approve this measure to honor him by renaming Jefferson City's Missouri River bridge after him.

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St. Joseph News Press. April 15, 2022.

Editorial: Bearcat nation deserves some answers

Americans have lost trust in institutions of stature and influence. When people lose faith in school boards, health experts or elected officials, this distrust serves to weaken the glue in our civil society.

Plenty of blame can be aimed at social media and its ability to empower the most extreme and shrill voices over those who would embrace moderation, thoughtfulness and compromise. In an article titled "Why the Last 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid," The Atlantic chronicled social media's evolution from a platform for the sharing of harmless photos to a vehicle for tribalism and confirmation bias.

It made for fascinating reading, but it overlooked how sometimes organizations are their own worst enemies when it comes to an erosion of trust. You can't attribute all of it to Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey.

All too often, institutions and organizations resort to a default, say-as-little-as-possible stance on important issues. The aversion to risk is understandable. The less you say, the less you get in trouble down the road.

Maybe this worked a couple of decades ago, but in the world of social media, guess who fills the void? The absence of reliable information leaves a vacuum that's filled with pseudo-experts, wild speculation and talking points from the Tucker Carlson show or some virtue-signaler on the left.

On a national level, this can be destabilizing and even dangerous. Viewed locally, it's just unfortunate because organizations that lose trust are staffed with smart, well-meaning and hardworking individuals who are deserving of it.

The Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents runs the risk of losing public trust following its decision not the renew the contract of Dr. John Jasinski, the university president. Not for the decision — boards have the authority to do things like this — but because the public is left with so many more questions than answers. The move certainly comes as a surprise given some of the successes in the Jasinski era, including two consecutive years of record enrollment and a capital campaign that raised $55 million.

Maybe the board has its reasons. If so, people would sure like to hear them. Jasinski, for his part, penned a lengthy message to Bearcat nation that was extremely upbeat but contained this interesting kernel: "I ask you to look critically at the Board of Regents. Understand the inner workings and ties to others, discern the intended direction, ascertain support or lack thereof for critical issues and weigh in on the institution's future."

There's plenty to unpack there. This board might be facing a bit of a trust deficit. If so, it can't hang this one on social media.

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