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I voted FOR the casinos’ Prop A Amendment last fall, knowing I was about to get snookered. No matter what the casinos claimed, I knew that the additional tax money it raised would never go to education. Didn’t you? Because if you didn’t, you’re a fool. Look at the history: the casinos made the same promise in 1992, and then the legislature played a shell game with the money. I voted against it back then, and with history as my teacher, I … did an about face?

Yes, and it galled me to help them make a fool out of me, but I’d seen the forecasts of what was about to happen to Missouri state revenues. We were going to need every penny we could get from whatever source, especially since Republicans hold the purse strings.

In her latest newsletter, Representative Jeanne Kirkton–D-Webster Groves–confirmed my expectation about what would happen to the funds:

A shell game is being played with the Proposition A casino revenue approved by voters in November 2008. Once again, voters were promised the money would be additional revenue for public schools but instead it is being used to replace $108 million in general revenue for other, non-education purposes.  There is no new money for education or increased state funding for our schools from Prop A funds.

Oh well. Considering the fiscal lunacy of the current majority party, I can’t regret voting for that damned Prop A amendment. A hundred million is a hundred million, even if it’s going to pay to keep state agencies staffed, or whatever they’re using it for, instead of reducing class sizes.

The Republican lunacy I refer to includes bringing up again in the House a TABOR-like amendment–and this time passing it (82-78). Let us hope that cooler heads prevail in the Senate and that we are not forced to vote down this constitutional amendment in 2010, because it is a dangerous idea.  The amendment would limit future state spending to what it is now, plus inflation and population growth. How sane is it to try to limit all future spending to the level we suffer during a year of severe recession–perhaps one even headed toward a depression? At a time when our state revenues are being sucked into a pit of quicksand, the wingnuts would like to plant a heavy fist on the budget and push it deeper into the mire. I suppose it would be rude to use the word “crackpots” at this juncture, wouldn’t it?

To the Republican way of thinking, though, this is the ideal time to get such a constitutional amendment on the ballot . They relish–a la Grover Norquist and bathtubs–a chance to slash welfare for all those shiftless poor people. And keep it gone.

They have a bonny fine start on that goal: Regular readers of this site know they’re turning down an abso-freakin’-lutely free hundred million dollars for Medicaid.

And that bit of vengeance on people for the sin of being poor almost pales in the face of turning away hundreds of millions in stimulus money.  The $4.3 billion in federal recovery funds that Missouri is slated to get is divided into two categories: funds for new projects to rev up the economy and funds to prevent budget cuts, that is, to keep the state’s economy from spiraling downward. Republicans are fine with spending the first kind of funds for one time projects like highway improvements. They’re not fine with preventing state budget cuts.

They pretend that their revulsion with those funds is a principled stand against overspending. But their ethical code is selective. They’ll take the $500 million for education funding, thank you very much, but they’re thumbing their noses at federal dollars for senior services, mental health services, and children’s health care.

Mind you, I’m not complaining that Republicans took the education funds. We need them, so it’s fortunate that the right wingers are savvy enough to realize that cutting education spending would incense even the voters who don’t mind seeing poor children go without health care. All I’m saying is: stinginess and callousness do not a code of ethics make.  Especially when refusing to take those funds means that health care jobs get cut and that our already reeling state economy will take another hit as a result.

Anyway, the voters of Missouri got flim-flammed again into voting the way casinos wanted them to last fall. Thank goodness for small favors.