Carnahan's vote on reform is open to criticism

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

ID debate focuses on Carnahan: The flak is still flying in the wake of the U.S. Senate's pitched battle over election reform.

In Missouri, Republicans think it's Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan who will suffer some holes in her wings.

The GOP is calling the freshman senator's vote on the issue a major miscue. She's now vulnerable, Republicans say, to charges that she's soft on voter fraud. ...

Some background: Last month, Carnahan joined fellow Democrats on a key amendment addressing how much identification voters should provide when they register and cast ballots by mail.

Voting via postage stamp is a vulnerable point in the U.S. system because voters remain out of sight. Still, Democrats said, the ID bar should be low. Real low. The standard, they said, should be a signature that could be compared with another signature on file.

Republicans, led by Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, went nuts. They thought they had a deal for a slightly stronger standard that involved sticking a copy of a driver's license in with a ballot.

Or a copy of a utility bill. Or a bank statement. Or some type of generic ID card.

Something, anything, to demonstrate there's a real human being behind that vote.

The ID check, Republicans reasoned, should be a least as stringent as what's needed to cash a $5 check.

Democrats balked. That standard, they complained, would eliminate thousands of elderly and poor voters who would have trouble coming up with copies. ...

The Democratic amendment passed (with JEAN CARNAHAN's support) despite Bond's contention that the signature plan would make it even easier to cheat.

At that point, the GOP drew a line in the sand.

No anti-fraud provision, they said, no bill.

And that was a major threat, because the reform bill creates uniform voting standards and spends billions to update voting machines nationwide. That is in response to the Florida fiasco, not to mention all the problems in St. Louis. There, three persons face felony charges of voter fraud stemming from the March 2001 mayoral primary.

Bond, who has been seething about illegal voting since election night 2000, refused to budge on his anti-fraud stance.

Democrats then took the only rational course left. They folded. And they did so largely because the GOP held all the common-sense cards in this game. Simply put, the security of the ballot must come first.

Save for a few details still being worked out, the voter reform effort is back on track, with Bond's anti-fraud provision firmly embedded inside.

Carnahan's problem is that she's on record as voting for the amendment that originally gutted Bond's effort.

Republicans think the vote will cost Carnahan, particularly in outstate Missouri, where St. Louis voter fraud still rankles. -- Steve Kraske, The Kansas City Star

Reading: If you resist reading what you disagree with, how will you ever acquire deeper insights into what you believe? The things most worth reading are precisely those that challenge our convictions. -- Author unknown

In his own witty but pointed style, KEN NEWTON, (onetime editor here at the Southeast Missourian) and now columnist and Web editor for the St. Joseph, Mo., News Press pointed out in a recent column that "the party ends for Missouri, but the governor must still govern." Here are some excerpts:

"Imagine showing up for a party late, hearing stories of the great time had by the folks who just left and being asked, since you're here, if you can help clean up a few things. Imagine this and you know Bob Holden's world.

"Holden arrived as Missouri's chief executive just as the economic party known as the 1990s concluded. He walked across a confetti-strewn floor in time to see the band loading up its equipment.

"Our state took a nice ride on the prosperity of the last decade. The Missouri budget stood at $8 billion in 1990, then at $17 billion in 2000. The introduction of gambling helped inflate the revenue, but most aspects of the economy contributed. The fiscal good times rolled.

"Holden knew. For most of the decade, he worked as state treasurer. The deposit slips were eye-popping.

"He became governor, and along with the job came the state seal and a kick in the gut. Want a surprise? Think about buying a house and finding out the previous owners took the stairs with them. You might remember days when Hancock Amendment refunds arrived in your mailbox, the result of greater-than collections by the state treasury. Over three years, the state gave back more than $700 million to taxpayers.

"Remember those days fondly. This governor gets a lot fewer coins to work with than his predecessor, Democrat Mel Carnahan. In fact, Holden declared an economic emergency, asking the General Assembly to approve spending $135 million from the state's Rainy Day Fund. Any fund with 'rainy day' in its description comes with a bit of Mayberry lineage. It smacks of hitting a tough spell and digging into the savings account, which is exactly what it is. The fund exists to reconcile hard times, and Missouri finds itself a little strapped for cash."

The sky's not falling in Missouri: Gov. Bob Holden declared an economic emergency. His plan to use up $135 million of Missouri's Rainy Day Fund (88 percent of available rainy day funds) for next year's budget is a disaster of an idea.

His plan holds hostage critical, ongoing state programs for the mentally ill, the disabled, the elderly and children that should be funded with general state revenue instead of our emergency fund.

The governor says our state is facing a revenue crisis because of the current recession.

State revenue, however, has actually increased by 3.1 percent so far this fiscal year. This means the state has collected $120.4 million more in this recession year over what it did last year. Yet the governor has declared an economic emergency.

In addition, the governor predicts a 2.3 percent increase in state revenue next year. To Missouri families, who are facing real economic hardship, this is not a disaster. Using the Rainy Day Fund is hard to justify when state revenue is increasing this year and is predicted to keep growing next year.

A better, long-term solution is the full-scale implementation of state budget reform. Instead of tapping into the Rainy Day Fund, the governor could freeze the budget at its current level, except for increases for the education foundation formula and federal mandates, which would be funded with next year's revenue increase.

Worst of all, the governor would use our Rainy Day Fund to pay for ongoing programs for the most vulnerable Missourians. This would leave a gaping hole in next year's budget and no way to fund these programs.

Raiding $135 million from the Rainy Day Fund guarantees a budget crisis next year, because we will have to find $135 million to fund these same programs plus $45 million to begin repaying the fund plus interest.

The governor's proposed budget and his plan to raid the fund is a disaster. In order to balance the budget, the governor depends on the General Assembly approving the use of the Rainy Day Fund by a two-thirds majority vote, an almost impossible feat.

Instead of implementing budget reforms and making state government live within its means, the governor has chosen to jeopardize both the budget and programs he claims are essential. -- Catherine L. Hanaway, Missouri House minority leader

Lessons learned from Noah's ark: Everything I need to know about life, I learned from Noah's ark.

1. Don't miss the boat.

2. Remember that we are all in the same boat.

3. Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

4. Don't listen to critics. Just get on with the job that needs to be done.

5. Build your future on high ground.

6. For safety's sake, travel in pairs.

7. Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

8. When you're stressed, float a while.

9. Remember, the ark was built by amateurs. The Titanic was built by professionals.

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: