Monday, January 14, 2008

Show Me The Money!

"We applaud his decision . . . to reverse his policy."
Reporters e-mail inboxes have been overflowing with press releases from the Governor's office, touting new money from everything to anti-smoking programs to dental care to funding for the disabled.

The onslaught really started two months ago. And we'll get more details on all of this in Tuesday night's State of the State address. But today is a prime example that there seems to be a lot of extra cash lying around in Jefferson City this election year.

“Smart money management and the same responsible planning Missouri families rely on every day to support their personal budgets have enabled us to recover from a $1.1 billion deficit, to cut taxes, and to improve vital services such as education, health care and transportation," said Gov. Blunt today in a statement touting the state's surplus.

Here's a sample of Blunt's funding boosts just announced today:
  • $7.4 Million increase for Department of Mental Health providers
  • $7 Million rate increase for dental providers who serve MoHealthNet adults and children
  • $24.6 Million increase to fund dental and eye coverage for 280,000 Missourians
  • $5.2 Million increase to support 7,500 disabled Missourians employed at sheltered workshops

At least some of the interest groups who criticized the Governor's 2005 Medicaid cuts, are applauding what they see as a reversal. “We applaud his decision to reverse his administration’s earlier policy of taking medical assistance away from the poor, disabled, elderly and other vulnerable groups,” said Bob Quinn of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

Jay Nixon's campaign for Governor said Blunt's money drop is clearly a move to "fix his image in an election year."

"When you slash health care from hundreds of thousands of Missourians and refuse to invest in higher education, of course there's going to be some extra money in the bank," Nixon spokesperson Oren Shur told the KY3 Political Notebook.

"The money is clearly there to restore Blunt's disastrous health care cuts, but he's simply unwilling to admit he was wrong and fix the health care crisis he created," Shur said.

The Blunt administration counters that the Governor's policies allowed the state to get to this stable financial position. "For the last two years Gov. Blunt has also left more money in the bank than ever before in the state’s history to fund Missourians’ future priorities. Instead of planning to spend every penny expected, Gov. Blunt has made a deliberate effort to set aside unprecedented savings to benefit Missourians’ long term goals," said spokesperson Jessica Robinson in a release.

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