House Minority Leader and Representative Paul LeVota (D) was the featured speaker at the Thursday night meeting of the Johnson County Democratic Club in Warrensburg.
I’ve been the House Democratic Leader for three years, been in the House for eight years. I represent my hometown of Independence, Missouri. And, uh, we, we have seen quite a bit of change in the last eight years. When I was elected I came in with ninety new members and we were the first group of people, group of Democrats that were in the minority. We didn’t have the luxury of being in the majority.
But since that time we’ve seen this Republican legislature move us backwards in the state. And we’ve worked very hard to try to move forward. We made some progress with picking up eight seats in two cycles, which is better than any other Democratic group since nineteen sixty-four or six… And we also did our best to get a Democratic governor in there. So now we’re at a, a time when we had this successful election in two thousand and eight and we see what these Republicans are really all about. They are scared. So in two thousand and ten in the legislature the House spent a lot of time on non-binding resolutions. And these non-binding resolutions that they would put up in the House basically were messages to Congress to tell them what to do. One of them was that we reject the new health care out of Congress. One of them was to remind them that we are sovereign state. [laughter] Yeah, I didn’t, I wasn’t aware of that one. One was that we have the right to pray even though we already have the right to pray. Also, they need to do a balanced budget and they need to, anyway there’s a lot of things that the Missouri House spent a lot of time telling Congress what to do. Well, we needed to work on Missouri.
The Governor came out with goals that all Missourians could get behind for the session. Number one is create new jobs in the state. Number two, to make sure we have a balanced budget. And number three, to have real ethics reform at state, so we can get rid of that cloud of pay to play mentality in Jefferson City. And as the Governor presented those proposals at the beginning of the year everybody was on board with those. The Republicans were saying this sounds good. But then they wasted time with these non-binding resolutions. Where even the Senate was doing some work, the House continued to do that.
Then the Governor came back and said it’s even worse than we thought. We have to cut a half a billion dollars from the current budget to make everything balanced. So you put that on the legislature. Well, this was not a problem that is a natural disaster, this was a man made disaster. And it was man made because the continual, uh, belief by these Republicans that all you need to do is cut, cut, cut, give away our tax money to big businesses through tax credits and have them not be accountable, and ignore any other way to bring in more money to the state. So that’s where we are now, we’re, we’re reducing revenue continually. House Democrats continue to say we need a balanced approach. We need to first a foremost look at these tax credits, uh, review them, but that was off the page because these Republicans want to give money continually to their big business friends in the state.
So, it consumed the rest of the year, in the budget. And we had to figure out a way to make cuts, they were very painful. Um, but the worst part of it is that we did nothing to help solve the problem for next year. And we’re going to be in a deeper hole next year.
Meanwhile, the other goals of getting new jobs in the state, the Republicans failed to pass the Governor’s jobs bill to help create those jobs in the state, particularly help create jobs for, uh, manufacturing, like Ford, in the Kansas City area. And they even refused to do a real ethics reform bill. The House Democrats continue to push for, uh, ethics reform, saying that we have to stop these committee to committee transfers. Got to stop the revolving door of someone being a legislator then a lobbyist. You’ve got to ban the practice, this is legal, but we were saying we need to ban the practice of a legislator being a political consultant at the same time. But we also said that we need to reinstate campaign finance limits. The people in Missouri, late nineties, wanted those. They voted for those. It’s fair. Uh, we had a hearing on that bill. Uh, we, we made some progress with that ’cause we actually were gonna, we thought we were gonna get to the Senate, but then again, continually, stopped over and over again. Particularly by the Speaker of the House and the Floor Leader who, um, will be the leader of the Republicans next year, Steve Tilley. He received a hundred thousand dollars from one person. Now that just doesn’t make sense, does it? [voice: “No.”] It doesn’t make sense that the person controlling legislation would make that much, so it’s my hope that we work hard to make him a, the next minority leader. [laughter, applause] [inaudible] We continue to push the issue. They, they try to play games with it. We ended up with an ethics bill that only included the committee to committee stuff, without the other stuff.
And they claim that this is a successful, uh, session. So, here’s my motivation for you. It wasn’t a successful session. There are people in Missouri who deserve better, people in Missouri who deserve representatives, regardless of what party, to look at everything in a balanced approach, figure out how we fund education, how we fund higher ed, how we make sure we take care of the, the least fortunate. And also those who are, are proud to be very ethical and have, return accountability to the state.
And I don’t just buy this act that this is gonna be a Republican year. I think people are tired of the games. They’re tired of the games in Washington…but there’s no better, bigger group of game players than the Republicans in the House of Representatives of Missouri. When they try to have an ethics bill that includes voter, a voter ID measure in there, trying to hurt unions in there, all this other crazy provisions, they were playing games.
And I think when you have good candidates like we do, we’ve got three good candidates in the room….When we go out there and when we knock on the door and we talk about what’s really going on in Jefferson City and the real need for change there. And we talk in terms that the people of the state are hurting because of inaction of this legislature. [Governor] Jay Nixon can’t do everything by himself. And, by golly, now he’s gonna have to with this budget since the budget wasn’t right. He’s gonna have to do it. And just on a side note, the, the things that the Governor has had to do to withhold money, the things that he will have to do, is going to be painful. I want everyone in the room to think, whenever when we’re unhappy with something that the Governor has to cut or do, remember it could have been a heck of a lot worse if someone else were sitting in that chair. [voice: “That
‘s right.” voice: “Amen”] They handed him a complete mess. And the only way he’ll get this better is if we get these candidates elected. [applause]
We really need your help to explain to folks that we could be doing a lot better in the state. And the people of this district particularly, but the other districts that we’re focusing on, deserve a heck of a lot better than what they have. And that should be our message this fall….