Gov. Bob Holden wants Missourians to approve tax increases to pay for a balanced state budget. The Republican majority in the House and Senate favor cuts in state spending over the plan for tax increases. The two sides of this issue have been at this point since January when the legislative session began.
So through months of debate, the GOP majority whittled state spending little by little and approved a balanced budget that calls for no increased taxes. Gov. Holden - as is his right - countered that the cuts would harm the citizens of the state and he refused to budge from his tax hike plan.
Well the legislative session came to a close and the House and Senate sent the Governor a $19 billion state budget that would mean cuts in virtually all segments of state government. The cuts were spread across the spectrum of spending and held to the GOP pledge against higher taxes. Given the fact that Missouri voters just last year rejected the tax hikes that Holden favors, it would seem unlikely that voters have changed their minds in the past few months.
So everyone expected Holden to veto the budget and call the legislators back to a special session next month. And that is exactly what is about to happen. The Republicans vow to stick with their reduced spending budget and Holden vows to push a tax increase vote through the special session. In the great scheme of state government, all of the above is to be expected. One party (the Democrats) favor larger government and more services to the people while the other party (the Republicans) favor smaller government and a lower tax burden.
What was unexpected however was the grand-standing and media circus that Holden paraded around the state this week.
Instead of simply exerting his powers as governor and calling the special session, Holden spent the week traveling around Missouri with a daily veto of separate sections of the budget. His embarrassing sideshow is just another nail in the Holden political coffin.
Gov. Holden, I believe, knows he lacks the votes to push another tax increase to state residents. But Holden has his eye on a re-election bid next year and I am convinced his series of announcements is more about his re-election than moving the state budget forward. His actions are beneath the dignity of the state legislature and state government in general. He should have called the special session, rolled up his sleeves and pledged to hammer out a compromise. Instead, Holden travels to the four corners of the state berating his opponents and forecasting doom and gloom for the state of Missouri.
I've said it before and I'll repeat it again. If Missouri residents favored high taxes to cover state services, they would vote accordingly. I voted in favor of one of those tax proposals last year and would again. But the majority of this state does not agree. And in a democracy, it's those majority voices that rule. I understand, agree and accept that decision.
The story goes that 50 years ago, this newspaper found a particular difference of opinion with a politician. The editor of the newspaper found no respect for this politician's positions, character or his impact on our state. And to emphasize that lack of respect, the newspaper decided against capitalizing the politician's name in future news stories.
bob holden deserves that very same treatment.