For Immediate Release:
Jan. 9, 2013

Contact: Jordan Yount
(573) 751-4128
Education, Health Care and Economic Development
Focus of Senate Democrats

JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Democrats say Missouri lawmakers have a unique opportunity to dramatically improve the state’s economy while greatly expanding access to basic health care needs for thousands of Missourians.  Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would provide health care coverage to 160,000 Missourians who currently lack health insurance, while creating more than 20,000 jobs across the state, according to a recent study from the University of Missouri.  The report finds that state tax revenue generated by these new jobs could provide enough money to cover the state’s share of the cost of expanding Medicaid.

“Hospitals across Missouri, especially rural hospitals, are urging us to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act because the federal government will begin cutting payments to hospitals for taking care of the uninsured this year,” Minority Floor Leader Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said. “The federal government picks up 100% of the costs of the expansion the first three years and would never pay less than 90% of the costs. Even the Missouri Chamber of Commerce supports expanding Medicaid because of all of the jobs the expansion would create.  I remain hopeful Missouri lawmakers will do what’s right for the people of this state rather than what might be politically popular back home.”

Education will be front and center once again this legislative session, especially in light of the failure of lawmakers to allow the state to intervene more quickly in struggling school districts.  An agreement to remove the current two-year waiting period after a district loses accreditation failed on the last day of the 2012 session.  Sen. Kiki Curls, D-Kansas City, had worked for months to broker the agreement.

“What happened last year was shameful because legislators used 17,000 thousand Kansas City public school students as political pawns,” Sen. Curls said.   “We told our students they will have to muddle through a failing school district for two years before we can do anything meaningful to improve the district, and that is completely unacceptable.”

The chairman of the Senate Education Committee has pledged to bring the legislation back to the floor this year.  Lawmakers also must consider changes to the school funding formula, which falls further behind its stated funding goals each year.  Senate Democrats also are prepared to challenge efforts to end teacher tenure and other politically motivated assaults on public education in Missouri.

A number of lawmakers are proposing issuing state bonds to rebuild Missouri’s infrastructure, which would put tens of thousands of Missourians back to work building roads, bridges and public facilities.  Last year the state retired $600-million in voter-approved bonds promoted by Republican Governor Kit Bond in 1982.  Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, worked in the banking industry for 20 years and says the timing is perfect.

“Moody’s Investors Service says our state’s per-capita debt load is among the lowest in the nation, interest rates are at historic lows and Missouri retains its AAA credit rating, so we couldn’t be better positioned to issue infrastructure bonds at this time,” Sen. Keaveny said.

Sen. Justus says other issues likely to be debated during the 2013 session include campaign finance reform, tax credit reform and reforming the state’s criminal justice system. 

The First Regular Session of the 97th Missouri General Assembly convened on January 9 with a swearing-in ceremony for new members.  The 2013 legislative session concludes on May 17.