Monday, April 04, 2005

I noticed an interesting juxtaposition upon opening to the business page of the Post-Dispatch last week. On the left side of the page was a column by Martin Van Der Werf touting the more than 2 billion dollars in new investment in Missouri, while on the other side of the page was a story about Gov. Blunt's recent signing of a worker's comp revision that would limit workers access to compensation.
The St. Louis area is on the verge of a construction boom unlike any seen in perhaps two decades, with contracts for a plethora of large projects about to be awarded.

Overall, construction employment hours have been growing at about 5 percent a year, but it is the size of the projects and the number that will be going up simultaneously that are remarkable.

Martin Van Der Werf,
St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

"Companies that are in Missouri will look at Arkansas and Oklahoma and determine quickly that they can realize real savings in their workers' compensation costs by moving to one of those other states."

Gov. Matt Blunt

And a quick look back to Gov. Blunt's State of the State speech…
”My budget calls for significant reductions in spending for some state agencies and programs. It demands that state government live within the people's means, with no new job-destroying taxes that harm working families and diminish future economic opportunities.“

”High workers' compensation insurance premiums are costing Missouri jobs. In 2003, premiums increased by 13.8 percent. These premiums detract from an employers' ability to reinvest and grow his or her business and to hire new workers. Some Missouri companies have discovered that they can realize significant workers' compensation savings by moving to a neighboring state.”

Gov. Matt Blunt,
State of the State Address,
January 26, 2005.

These are two of the three big points Republicans use to sell themselves as pro-business and pro-growth. Tax cuts, reduced workers rights and the third, mentioned elsewhere in the State of the State speech, reducing individuals access to courts (via liability lawsuit restrictions).

Yet billions of dollars in business investment do not appear overnight. SLU's research facility has been on the drawing board for years, as well as the $750 million cement plant (which had been held-up for quite some time due to environmental concerns).

If the previous Democrat-controlled governments in Missouri were crushing the future of job growth in Missouri through taxation and litigation, why have businesses been planning on spending billions in Missouri? The St. Louis area alone has seen hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment despite continuous claims that taxes and red tape are killing growth prospects.

The Republican party changed its anti-tax argument from a moral issue into a business issues during the 1980's. Despite the fact that the U.S. not only has had the lowest tax rate of any industrialized nation, but during the same time period created greater wealth than the world has ever seen. Unreasonable tax burdens are a bad idea in anyone's book, but the taxation bogeyman that Republicans like to trot out to scare people into accepting their other policies (eliminating services that not only help those in need, but also contribute to a better business environment) is nothing more than a smokescreen. Accross the country, states are realizing that they can not function without revenue and even those governors and legislators who pledged fidelity to the anti-tax crusade are realizing the fiscal reality.

Until there can be a more common-sense and economically driven discussion about taxes, the Republicans will continue to cloak their ideology in "tax-relief".

- Murphy

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