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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Governor's reform efforts admirable

Thursday, April 28, 2005

I'll be the first to admit - Gov. Matt Blunt is sticking to his campaign promise to reform state government. That will make Blunt unpopular in some quarters but I believe time will prove him correct.

There were ample reservations about Blunt's age and lack of experience when he ran for the state's top office. He was facing Claire McCaskill, a seasoned and intelligent opponent. That match-up put into focus the two personalities and the potential for success from each candidate.

Blunt pledged to reform government and address the spiraling cost of Medicaid among other issues. The first battle in that promise has been Medicaid. And on that front, Blunt has stood firm.

There have been missteps. The First Step program was targeted for demolition but because of a public outcry, much of that program has remained intact.

The problem with Medicaid reform is that the opponents don't offer any alternative other than to raise taxes. But when you explore the level of tax increase required to sustain Medicaid's expansion, it becomes unrealistic and would doom the state's economy.

So Blunt, to his great credit, stood his ground. And this week the reforms gained approval.

Blunt must also over time begin to analyze the size of state government. He'll need to examine the number of state employees and the benefits those employees receive. I suspect he'll find that we can perhaps do more with less. But that too will prove unpopular.

Blunt has recognized the fundamental premise of the conservative approach. Through time, governments grow far beyond their original need. Governments expand and to support that expansion, they devise programs that make the public more reliant on government. As time slips by, the costs explode and the poor taxpayer is left holding the bill. At some point, the numbers simply don't work any longer.

Blunt's report card thus far would make a parent proud. But reversing the expansion of the Carnahan and Holden years won't occur overnight. And it won't necessarily be popular. But Blunt appears to be committed to his reform pledge. In the long run, the state will greatly benefit from these reforms.

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