Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt will stand before the General Assembly tonight to deliver his annual State of the State address. This yearly ritual gives Missourians and lawmakers their first real look at the Governor's plans for this year. It will also offer a snapshot of the overall condition of state government with virtually all of the emphasis on how to spend taxpayer dollars.
With strong majorities in both the Missouri House and Senate, Blunt will dip his toe in friendly waters this evening. His address should give Blunt the opportunity to clearly put his footprint on the future of this state. But to do so, Blunt must take bold initiatives and tackle some tough topics. His political future might well rest on the accomplishments in our state this year. But more importantly, Blunt has the golden opportunity - with GOP strength in both houses - to lead the state in the fiscally conservative direction that his administration has promised.
Blunt didn't ask me but here are a couple of suggestions he might offer to the General Assembly.
First, Blunt should renew discussions on the controversial issue of Right to Work. Defeated narrowly by voters long ago, Right to Work would level the playing field in the area of attracting industry to our state. Here in Southeast Missouri we have lost industrial prospects to neighboring states because of a lack of Right to Work laws in Missouri. Some employers fear that heavy-
handed actions by labor unions would impact their businesses. So they go to states where laws don't mandate union membership. Arkansas is a prime example. That state has attracted a host of industries that would have or could have located here but instead, opted to build in states where the labor climate was better.
Let me make this crystal clear. Not all unions or union activities are detrimental to business. But the perception and sometimes the reality is that mandated union membership can sometimes hamper the efforts of business and industry to make the critical decisions needed to grow their business. And that perception has cost Missouri jobs.
Blunt could propose that each county decide by a vote whether to allow Right to Work laws to be implemented in their county. The issue may be less important in some areas than others. But in our region I think there would be strong support for just such a proposal.
On another front, Blunt needs to address the Medicaid crisis that annually plagues Missouri. In a brief preview of his remarks for tonight, Blunt signaled that he will propose a couple of million extra dollars for math and science education. That is an excellent idea. But Medicaid funding is gauged in the billions of dollars. And the cost for the state grows daily.
Last year, I think the Blunt administration botched the Medicaid issue. They removed thousands from the Medicaid rolls which might well make fiscal sense. But those impacted were among the most vulnerable. Their coverage should be restored.
Here's the tricky part. Blunt needs to send a clear signal to the medical providers that they too will be scrutinized for their part in the Medicaid issue. The recipients sometimes cheat the system. But I suspect there is ample fraud from the providers' standpoint as well. If medical providers are getting rich from my tax dollars, I want it stopped. Blunt should provide the leadership to address this issue.