Kinder outlines agenda at Rotary luncheon

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

State revenue won't be as strong as last year, but lieutenant governor-elect Peter Kinder told a group of Rotarians Monday that important issues will still be a top priority in Missouri in 2005, including rewriting the schools foundation formula and vastly improving the state's poor business climate.

Kinder was the guest speaker at a noon luncheon meeting Monday of the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau.

"The good news is the state's revenue will be growing," said Kinder, a Republican. "But the bad news is it won't be growing at the same rate as last year."

The revenue is expected to increase by 2.2 percent, he said, a significant decrease from the 8.1 percent that the state's revenue grew last year.

He said the budget process will be complicated by the school funding issue. The legislature is working to rewrite the foundation formula, which is currently used to distribute school funding.

"It's among the most difficult and daunting tasks we do in state government," Kinder said.

Further complicating the matter, he said, is a lawsuit filed by about half the state's school districts who claim the current foundation formula is inequitable, a fact he said no one doubts.

But the lawsuit also says that the funding is inadequate. Kinder said he has a problem with that argument.

He said if a judge, or group of judges, say that the amount given to schools is not enough, then the judicial branch would be performing a job of the legislative branch.

"It would basically be an usurpation of the legislature's authority and a potential constitutional crisis," he said.

Rewriting the foundation formula would be a top priority, Kinder said.

Another goal would be improving the state's business plan. In 2002, Missouri led the country in job losses. Kinder said part of that is because some manufacturers are more efficient. But he said the cost of doing business in Missouri also caused businesses to leave the state.

Kinder said workers compensations costs, for example, are 80 percent less in Arkansas.

"That puts us at a disadvantage," he said.

Another goal of the legislature and the Blunt/Kinder administration would be to pass a bill that brings worker's comp under control.

Kinder also said that governor-elect Matt Blunt has promised to move on tort reform, including addressing outrageous medical malpractice costs and lawsuit venue loopholes.

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