Gov. Matt Blunt provided an op-ed recently in the Call claiming that Missouri must stay strong.
He claims that Missouri is on solid financial ground. Sound familiar? He claims that Missouri is not straddled with budget problems and a crippling economic outlook. However, the non-partisan Missouri Budget Project predicts that the state could face a budget shortfall of at least $500 million next year.
State revenue has fallen by about 1 percent over the past three months. He wants Missouri to “stay strong,” but it looks like he lost at playing chicken when faced with the challenge of re-election to defend his priorities.
Blunt completely ignores the health-care cuts that cost the state $1.5 billion in federal match. The Missouri Department of Social Services reported a 33-percent increase in the numbers of people applying for medicaid with only a 17-percent hike in applications approved.
The cost of the uninsured has shifted to an increase in premiums for those of us that still have insurance. Health-care premiums have risen 78 percent, far outpacing wage growth of 19 percent.
Now the number of uninsured Missourians skyrocketed in 2006 to three times the national rate. He claims to have reduced government to save money. He claims the state has had budget surplus through their sound financial management and “no tax increase.”
Unfortunately, the cost of his cuts shifted to the public anyway and these increased costs to families can be construed as a stealth tax increase that is eating up personal savings and constitutes a major cause of bankruptcy.
He claims that 80,000 new jobs have been added to the state economy since 2005. Where — and what types of wages? More Missourians are out of work now than at any point since 1984 with a loss of 22,000 jobs since October 2007 and 20,000 manufacturing jobs since 2005. Loss of jobs also contributes to loss of insurance. Missouri ranks 48th out of 50 states in annual pay growth. Missouri slipped in its rankings with the New Economy Index from 28 to 35. This represents one of the steepest declines in the nation. In the same time period, other Midwest states are making progress. Foreclosure filings increased 73 percent in the past year. He claims it is not the responsibility of government to create jobs — just the climate to create jobs. But if Missouri had grown at the national average since 2005, 33,442 more Missouri-ans would have jobs today.
He claims to have made education a priority. Actually, Missouri higher-education spending fails in comparison to every border state and is 47th among per capital higher education funding — even with Blunt’s one-time capital infusion.
Tuition rates for Missouri families have skyrocketed by 56.8 percent since 2002 and the National Report Card on Higher Education gave Missouri a failing grade when it comes to affordability.
The report states that Missouri makes a very low investment in need-based financial aid compared with leading states. Missouri students have an average student debt of $18,635 when they graduate from four-year institutions.
Under Blunt, the cost of college represents 46 percent of the in-come of almost half of Missouri’s families. He claims that Missourians remain resilient — only to taking his hit-and-run tactics.
He decided to take a walk from his responsibility to face the music of an outraged electorate this fall and decide not to seek re-election. He claimed he accomplished all he needed to do in four years instead of eight.
He worked fast — like a metastatic cancer or a surgeon with an ax instead of a laser.
Jan Polizzi RN, MS
Editor’s note: Mrs. Polizzi is a former Democratic state representative and former member of the Mehlville Board of Education.