NEW MADRID - While budget cuts are difficult, state legislators have what appears to be an impossible task: getting to the heart of problems without offending anyone.
Following comments on the status of public health in Missouri from Ron Cates, chief operating officer for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, State Rep. Lanie Black accepted an invitation to respond by confirming Cates' claim that after last year's cuts, "there's not a whole lot of fat left to trim."
Every department from education to the DHSS which has endured budget cuts say the cuts are too deep, according to Black, but the people he meets on the street tell him "the government can do just like my family does...quit spending the money."
Government makes promises, Black said, "and when you deliver people feel good about government, but when you don't deliver people don't feel so good about government any more."
Black said they need to start looking for the source of the problems and that many of the state's budget problems can be traced to underlying problems such as unwed mothers. Using education as an example, Black said the lack of parental participation is one reason area schools scored low. "The teachers are better trained than they've even been," he said.
While high illegitimacy rates in Southeast Missouri are a factor in poor performance scores by schools and other problems this area is facing, it is "not politically correct to talk about that," Black said. "Let's at least start talking about what the problem is."
Black said he is not picking on young ladies, but pointed out that while job prospects for a 17-year-old girl aren't so good, if she gets pregnant and has a child, she will get a monthly check, public housing, medical benefits, food stamps and other benefits. What government really needs to do, Black said, is provide incentives to not have out-of-wedlock children instead of the other way around.
Commenting on the "the tax revolt," Black said those who earn $18,000 to $23,000 per year end up with no more - and sometimes even less - than those collecting $15,000 to $18,000 in government assistance. People are tired of working to provide an equal standard of living for those who won't work, Black said.
He also spoke about discipline in the home. While it is important parents "don't beat the spirit" out of the children, spankings are an important part of raising children, according to Black. He related that in his family if his children got spanked at school they could expect another one when they got home.
While Black conceded he doesn't have all the answers, if he is to find solutions "you're going to have to let me talk about the problem without beating me up."