I've just read your article about Dr. Dobbins' testimony on additional funding cuts to Southeast Missouri State University. He, of course, was professional and polite.
The time, however, has come for "plain speaking."
1) In a state with unlimited campaign contributions coming overwhelmingly from Clayton, LaDue, Town and Country and University City (Forsyth Avenue);
2) In a state where $700 million in revenue each year is given away "off the top" in tax credits to filers concentrated in Clayton, Ladue, Town and Country and University City;
3) In a state that makes continuous cuts for education in K-12, but holds harmless school districts in Clayton, Ladue, Town and Country and University City;
4) In a state where state university tuitions are forced upwards while scholarship funding is stripped away; while students from Clayton, LaDue, Town and Country and University City attend private colleges and universities.
5) In a state where MoDOT is forced to reduce staffing by 1,000 employees (many of them engineers) following the complete overhaul of the highway system around Clayton, LaDue, Town and County and University City; and
6) In a state where the auditor (along with most of his predecessors) refuses to audit the largest tax credit programs despite a statutory requirement that they be audited every four years; we do not have a revenue problem, we have a corruption problem.
This is not just my conclusion. Last August, viewing all this from the Supreme Court across the street, then Justice Michael Wolff described our current system of tax credits. He wrote, "Elected officials can feel free to use state government as an ATM for dispensing public money through tax credits for special projects and to special pleaders."
Examine these "special projects" and you'll discover that while some are charitable, the overwhelming majority are for profit ventures.
Justice Wolff added when there's no one on guard "to safeguard the public's resources for the benefit of future generations -- (the public) will be entirely dependent on elected officials who may depend on the beneficiaries of tax credits for the financial support their campaigns need. Are these elected officials cognizant of the needs of future generations?"
Written in judicial language, this statement by a Supreme Court justice is as close to an accusation of political corruption as if he had used that word itself.
I recently spoke with Justice Wolff, who's now retired from the high court and at St. Louis University Law School. Free now to speak plainly, he did use the word. He said flat out, the State of Missouri is corrupt!
This is not class warfare, it is not Democrat vs. Republican or conservative vs. liberal, and it's not even urban vs. rural (most St. Louis school districts are not "held harmless" against budget cuts). We need to get beyond those standard labels.
This is sectional warfare. No more than four or five ZIP codes dominate the rest of this state with (to paraphrase the bard) an appetite of pure greed that grows the feeding of it. Is there any other way to see it?
The vast majority of Missourians should prevail here, but we're losing. If it continues, our children will pay the price. Add $700 million in purposefully uncollected taxes from these ZIP codes and these budget shortfalls disappear. It's that simple.
It's no more pleasant to blow a whistle than it is to hear one. But, you cannot win a war if you don't know you're in one. The time has come to pay attention.
1002 N. Ranney, Sikeston, Mo., 63801
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