State's outreach manager updates business community

Saturday, May 4, 2002

State officials in Jefferson City are working issues that are important to the business community, such as providing more online access, building new roads and eliminating governmental paperwork.

That's what James P. Thompson, project manager for Small Business Outreach, told those who attended First Friday Coffee at the Show Me Center Friday.

The Small Business Outreach Project, a state program under Secretary of State Matt Blunt, was set up to provide a voice for small businesses inside Missouri government.

Thompson said business people are concerned with access, taxes, health care, transportation and paperwork. He knows because he has been in contact with 4,000 people in 80 counties.

Access to government is available, Thompson said. He proved to those who wanted a free state of Missouri telephone book and an official roster of the Missouri General Assembly.

Online access

He pointed out that more and more access is available online, as well, although he said he recognizes it is unorganized and hard to find. The state is working on a single Web page that would direct business people to online permits, business applications, guidelines, etc.

As far as improving the state's roads and highways, he said, it is looking more and more likely that Missouri voters are going to have the opportunity to raise general sales taxes to pay for such improvements.

"Will the tax pass?" Thompson said. "I can tell you with great authority that I don't have the foggiest idea."

The state is also looking at simplifying paperwork and forms on the Internet, though he pointed out it's still difficult considering many forms require signatures, he said.

Making forms readable

But they are working to get complicated legal phrases out of the language to make the documents more readable.

"When was the last time you used the word pursuant in a sentence?" he asked.

Thompson pointed out that almost all applications are on the Internet, but that many of those aren't interactive.

He said the General Assembly is also considering authorizing school districts to implement their own tax to pay for improvements. He said legislators are also looking at requiring casino money to be distributed equally across the state. He gave the example of $100 a child.

"The author proposed that to keep the General Assembly's grubby hands off of that money," he said. "Will that pass? I don't know."

Some of those ideas are radical, he said.

"Radical ideas don't get through the General Assembly real quick," he said. "They have to be researched, discussed and cussed. But know that folks are paying attention to you."

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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