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Missouri voters, along with this newspaper, gave their nod of approval in November to Proposition C, a workaday measure among more high-profile issues on the crowded ballot. If you've forgotten, Proposition C expanded the duties of the state's lieutenant governor. Its appeal was that it provided some constitutional substance to a position that lacked same. We are pleased new Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson takes this mandate seriously. We are fearful, however, that symbolism might rob the measure of its new-found weight, or that new burdens placed on the budget might make us regret it passed.

Lt. Gov. Wilson, speaking at an event last week, explained that he favors a piece of legislation creating a state Department of Aging, which he said would "raise the stature" of programs serving Missouri's elderly. Such endeavors are now administered by a Division of Aging, an agency within the Department of Social Services. (There is also a Governor's Advisory Council on Aging.)

The lieutenant governor interprets his Proposition C-mandated duties as a dynamic prescription. The ballot measure spelled out that the lieutenant governor would monitor Missouri's senior citizens' programs; Lt. Gov. Wilson says two of his six full-time employees are designated to devote their time to these issues. Numbers and demographics justify some concern in this regard: Eighteen percent of Missouri's 5,117,073 people are senior citizens, a statistic that will dilate as the baby boom generation ages. The state now ranks fifth in the nation in number of senior citizens.

Our concern with the idea of a new department (as opposed to the current division) is that bureaucracy usually increases in correlation to this "raised stature." And where bureaucracy increases, ordinarily so do expenses.

While we understand that the funds being applied to Medicaid payments and appropriated to the Area Agencies on Aging signify a considerable state commitment that commands top-level attention, the proposed legislation may deliver more stature without delivering more service. Lt. Gov. Wilson says that merging programs, which might be accommodated with this change, would actually save state money, but that runs counter to the normal course in Jefferson City when stature is raised.

Henry David Thoreau once warned of enterprises that require new clothes. We might also be cautious of endeavors that require a new title. The needs of the elderly should be met, and we applaud the new lieutenant governor's zeal in seeing they are. But this might be done as well with a division instead of a department.