Today’s St. Louis Political Dispatch tells me that state Senator Kurt Schaefer (R-19) has labeled Governor Nixon’s proposed 2015 budget a “political fiction,” based on the Governor’s estimate of a revenue growth rate of 5.2%. One can dispute the premises of the budget in a number of ways, but maybe Senator Schaefer should be careful about calling others out for purveying political fiction. Schaefer, after all, is the same politician who defended his opposition to accepting Obamacare Medicaid expansion funding, which would have helped insure thousands of poor Missourians, by claiming that it would ultimately hurt education, declaring unequivocally that, “I am firmly convinced as the chairman of appropriations that there is no possible way to do Medicaid expansion and not have a serious negative impact on public education.”
Of course the Medicaid expansion would have been fully funded by the federal government for the first three years and the state would have had to pick up funding for only 10% of the cost thereafter. The truth of the matter, as opposed to Schaefer’s contrived political fiction, seems to be that if Missouri doesn’t get in on this, the state will have missed out on a rare bargain that would better the lot of its citizens at a very low cost. All of which leaves one wondering if Schaefer might have a serious problem when it comes to distinguishing political fiction from reality, which would, of course, render the issue of Nixon’s budget – is it fictional or not? – moot.
But it gets even worse. It’s clear, after all, that Schaefer’s wailing about the fantasy damage that Medicaid will do to education in Missouri hasn’t stopped him from refusing to endorse revenue enhancements that are necessary if the struggling educational system is not to be damaged any more than it already has been. He’s actually sponsored another of those massive tax cut bills, SB733, that seem to get GOP juices going in spite of the potential to beggar state coffers, and, in the process, decimate public education in Missouri.
The damage to Missouri education that Schaefer is willing to countenance gets even more specific. According to the Post-Dispatch article, Schaefer’s response to the Governor’s proposed infusion of public funds into the foundation formula, the means by which the state attempts to equitably allocate money to public schools, was that the amount was too high. He can say this although the formula has been underfunded for the past three years and the amount of public funds that Governor Nixon is proposing to put into the system does not come close to closing the gap. The formula was underfunded by $621 million in 2013 and the governor is proposing to supplement it with only $278 million, but Kurt Schaefer thinks that this is more than we can afford. Yet this very same man thinks that Missouri can afford to refuse the return of federal money for Medicaid expansion – money that Missouri tax-payers paid into the federal system – because he, for some trumped up reason, thinks it will hurt education funding.
Since fiction is a realm where the normal logical rules need not apply, I’d say that these interrelated snippits of Senator Schaefer’s world-view might indicate that the gentleman himself inhabits a pretty fictional political universe. The question is, as always, why do Missourians continue to opt for fiction over fact when they elect their representatives? Don’t they see what’s happening as the state hurtles toward a very real, non-fictional bottom?
*Last sentence in 2nd paragraph edited slightly for clarity.