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Sen. Joan Bray of St. Louis visited West County Democrats last Monday and made some points worth mulling over.  One of them was about future redistricting and how the state is currently cut up to favor the Repubs.  She made the point that Mssouri is a swing state and “too close to call” in national elections until all the votes are in.  Given that we really are a purple state rather than a red one, why do we tell ourselves scary stories about those big, bad right wing voters?  Traveling around the state, I hear friends say they live in the most conservative district in the state.  Sorry, Charlie, but you can’t all be number one.  If we think we’re fighting a losing battle, we’ll probably lose. How much are we handicapping ourselves by repeating the myth of conservative dominance?

Another big topic during Bray’s visit was budget and taxes.  Others on this site have reported recent comments by Missouri Budget Project’s Amy Blouin.

After much coaxing, Sen. Bray admitted that the only issues that received fair, if not total, funding this spring were those with an organized group of white, middle class voters behind them (e.g., autism and First Steps.)  Everyone in the room felt Bray’s frustration with the cuts in services to people who can’t take care of themselves.  A member of the audience with two mentally ill sons described the fear she and her husband live with every day.  Sen. Bray agreed that it will probably take some major tragedy, especially a violent one, to make conservatives replenish the mental health budget.

Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford in the House and Sen. Bray in the Senate have offered bills year after year that would bring the state budget closer to what it needs to be.  We haven’t updated our income tax rates since the 1930’s.  Since everyone pays the same rate, we have already achieved the “flat tax” touted by conservatives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not happy about living in a state that’s number 50 in all the wrong categories.  Even South Carolina – South Carolina, for gawd’s sake – raised its cigarette tax.  So now we have the distinction of having the lowest tobacco tax in the nation.  Whoopee.

But, what the hell.  We’re still number one in meth labs and puppy mills.