Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 26, 2015
Response to Gov. Nixon's State of the State Address

This has been a busy week for the Missouri Senate. On Wednesday, January 21st our governor addressed members of the General Assembly, judges, state officials and Missouri as a whole providing numerous statistics, plans of action and accomplishments. During the governor’s address, he presented Missouri’s budget, along with his recommended spending plan. While many of his ideas are encouraging, those ideas must be followed with action.

The $26 billion budget delegated spending towards some major issues affecting our state. I hope to see the governor follow through with his proposed efforts and spending towards veteran homes, education funding, improvements to colleges throughout the state, agriculture and funding for transportation infrastructure.

I applaud the governor for honoring and acknowledging Missouri veterans for their service to our state and country. Although he addressed the housing issues our veterans are facing today, I urge him to remain true to his promise to release money to construct a new veteran’s home, as well as provide resources to modernize and improve homes already constructed.

Currently, there are seven veteran homes in Missouri, which house 1,350 veterans. However, as the Vietnam-era veterans are aging, sadly there are 2,000 veterans on a waiting list for a home. This is unacceptable. These are the heroes of our state who sacrificed so that we all may live better lives. They fulfilled their duty to state and country and we must now fulfill our duty to them.

I found the governor’s call for the General Assembly to rise above partisanship interesting, as it was immediately followed by the acknowledgment of his absence on the third floor. As an individual, I feel that I have a great relationship with members of both parties, regardless of my political allegiance. I strive to include both parties in the discussion, and as a member of the Missouri Senate, I feel that my fellow colleagues and I avoid partisanship daily in order to achieve the best results for all Missourians.

It was said that education is the great equalizer. I could not agree more. Education is always one of my top priorities. If we don’t provide a proper education in which students can build skills, mobility and talents we are not going to achieve the economic development we need. Companies considering moving to Missouri or expanding in the state are going to look closely at the workforce that is available.

When our education system delivers, our communities prosper. The budget includes $150 million for K-12 funding and $25 million for higher education. However, I hope none of the proposed funding will end up being withheld by the governor. How can we expect our school superintendents and administrators to adequately perform their jobs when they are unsure of the funding they will actually receive? We need a competitive workforce and to achieve this we must educate them. We cannot properly educate our workforce without the proper funding.

I knew the issue of Medicaid expansion would be addressed. I do not support the expansion of a program that is broken. It makes no sense to increase the use of a system that does not work. It is full of fraud, waste and abuse. We must first reform Medicaid before we can consider expanding it.

It is frustrating to hear our governor make the repeated claim that by not expanding Medicaid we are giving the money to other states and supporting their Medicaid expansion. This is not true. The money provided to a state by the federal government is based on a formula of how much of its population is on Medicaid. The Supreme Court states the federal government cannot withhold that money from a state.

One of my criticisms for a long time has been the lack of the governor’s efforts to include both parties in order to find out the issues legislators are working on and how he can help. If the governor involved himself more in the legislative process, it would save countless hours of debate only to find a bill, which could have created a positive change for Missourians, vetoed upon reaching his desk.

However, upon speaking with members of both parties, I have found this is a reoccurring complaint. To be an effective leader you must communicate and be involved. We must be able to rely on our governor to lead Missouri to a foundation of fiscal discipline and solid economic growth. When he is not involved with the process that will get us there Missouri suffers. I was encouraged to hear our governor is interested and willing to help.

Throughout the governor’s speech, he mentioned we should strive to leave Missouri better than we found it, and we must roll up our sleeves and get to work. I felt that this was a great message to remind us all why we are here. It is our job to work toward a stronger Missouri for all.

I will continue to work towards improving our state and creating a better life for all Missourians. Although the General Assembly has tackled many problems, we still have a lot of work to do.

I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government so that I can better represent you during the 2015 session.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at wayne.wallingford@senate.mo.gov or www.senate.mo.gov/wallingford.

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