Chamber responds to Holden

Saturday, October 4, 2003

By Daniel P. Mehan

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the University of Missouri joined forces last week to host the Missouri Job Summit, an attempt to bring together employers and policymakers to find solutions to Missouri's staggering job loss. The Missouri Chamber thought it appropriate that Gov. Holden be part of this forum, and we were pleased that he took the time to accept the invitation. Unfortunately, the governor used the invitation as an opportunity to attack those in attendance working to address this important issue.

In one of 11 negative comments about the Missouri Chamber, the governor stated that the Missouri Chamber had released "misleading" information about Missouri's job loss. He pointed to the administration's updated figures -- a four-month period from March through June -- when Missouri had added 40,000 jobs.

Who is being misleading?

The figures released in April by the Missouri Chamber were taken from a report by the U.S. Department of Labor for calendar year 2002. The report stated that Missouri had led the nation with the more than 70,000 jobs lost during that 12-month period. The DOL report continues to be cited, not just by the Missouri Chamber, but also by many other concerned stakeholders, because it is information that Missourians and policymakers need to know.

As for the figures cited by the governor, we could not be happier for the jobs that were added in the four-month window on which he focused. Unfortunately, the governor did not look at U.S. Department of Labor data for July 2003 that shows Missouri losing more than 40,000 in that month. In fact, looking where we stand overall in 2003, Missouri still is experiencing negative job growth, having lost 2,800 net jobs since the year began.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry does not enjoy being the bearer of bad news, but we are compelled to tell the truth. Our job climate is not going to get any better by ignoring the facts and continuing to push anti-business policies. During the 2003 legislative session, Gov. Holden had the opportunity to sign into law legislation that would reign in lawsuit abuse, salvage our bankrupt unemployment insurance fund and control small business regulatory burdens. He vetoed all three bills. At the same time, he pushed corporate tax increases, most of which would hit all Missouri employers -- not just big corporations as he has framed in the media.

By responding to the governor's accusations last week, the Missouri Chamber risks looking adversarial. That is not our intent. We are only trying to ensure Missourians are getting the full story.

Daniel P. Mehan is president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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