Observations: Stuff you can learn over a cup of coffee

June 24, 2014

in Local

SWO-webBy Pete Daniels, consulting editor

Monday morning became unexpectedly interesting at the local coffee shop: Chuck, a thoroughly nice guy and friend, brought in a booklet he discovered at an auction or sale over the weekend that involved the city’s finances back in 1947-48.

Back then, the city’s budget for police services was less than you pay for a new car today. For that matter, the overall municipal budget came in at less than the cost of a nice house these days.

Chuck’s booklet was fascinating and ranks as something to be treasured. Folks were apparently a lot more frugal in those days because that city finance document came in a size the almost fit into a shirt pocket — and, it included pictures and graphs and was sent to residents via the U.S. mail.

Now, let’s fast-forward to 2014 and something that came in my mail from out-going State Rep. Stanley Cox and involved the 2015 “Missouri Operating Budget.”

Listed as “total available after refunds” was the number $26,379,386,970. General revenue, Cox’s pamphlet said, accounts for $8,843,796,615 of that total, while another $8,688,418,814 comes from federal funds and $8,847,071,541 is derived from “other funds,” such as “highway & road funds, Proposition C & cigarette tax, lottery & gaming proceeds and conservation, parks, soil & water funds.”

The publication, incidentally, was printed by the Missouri House of Representatives and, consequently, was probably available for distribution to every representative in the Missouri House. It made no mention of who paid for the printing and distribution.

At any rate, it went on to explain just how all of these billions of dollars are used. It noted that 33.03 cents of every dollar are used for social services while a mere 0.26 cents of each dollar goes toward the public debt and 0.16 cents is used for “insurance, financial institutions & professional registration.”

Other expenditures are also noted, of course, such as the 1.55 cents of every dollar the state spends on “elected officials, judiciary, Legislature & Public Defender.” The pamphlet, which is called a “newsletter,” also contains other interesting information, such as “Summaries of Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed Legislation.”

Readers were probably delighted to learn that this included Senate Bill 509 which “provides tax relief to Missouri families and businesses by reducing the state’s personal income tax…” Before you become too light-headed, be reminded that this won’t start until 2017 and heaven only knows what will happen to the bill between now and then.

Other laws passed included the “right to keep and bear arms” and such topics as early voting, an “abortion waiting period,” prohibiting student trackiing, a “student religious liberties act,” “developing Missouri-based education standards,” “unemployment benefit reform” and a bill involving “oral chemotherapy parity.”

You can probably get a lot more detailed information by visiting www.house.gov.mo.gov/billcentral.aspx.

Among the measures that stood out a bit for me was the “student religious liberties act” which, according to the news letter, would prohibit a “school district from discriminating against a student or parent on the basis of religious viewpoint or expression.” Excuse me, but isn’t religious freedom guaranteed to all in our Constitution? Why is this law needed? The problem here, no doubt, is that I’m not smart enough to understand the finer nuances involved in the passage of this bill.

Maybe, some day, I’ll learn.

Again, if you have an opinion or comment on any of this, contact us at sedaliaobserver@gmail.com, write to us at Sedalia Weekly Observer, 2700 West Broadway, Suite 10, Sedalia, Mo., 65301, including your name, address and telephone number in order for us to verify that you are the sender. Or, you could drop your message off at the office.

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