RSS

Monthly Archives: July 2011

St. Louis Post Dispatch: 2011 Homicide Map

The St. Louis Post Dispatch is updating a St. Louis Area Google Map with the homicides for 2011.  A quick search found the map for 2010 as well.  55 homicides have occurred as of June 2011; however, that is 7 less than the 1st half of 2010 according to St. Louis Police.

Check the interactive map to see how dangerous your neighborhood might be:

h/t St. Louis Post Dispatch

 

 

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Miscellaneous

 

Tags: ,

Education: How Tax Breaks Really Work

Below is a clear reminder of the fallacy of the Liberal thinking on tax breaks!  This should be taught every year at our nation’s high schools.

I haven’t seen this discussion of the progressive nature of the tax code recently, so I thought I’d post it again to refresh our collective memory:

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

  • The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
  • The fifth would pay $1.
  • The sixth would pay $3.
  • The seventh would pay $7.
  • The eighth would pay $12.
  • The ninth would pay $18.
  • The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers, he said, ‘I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected.  They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’ They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

  • The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings)
  • The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
  • The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
  • The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
  • The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
  • The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “But he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right!!” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!”

“That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute!” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

I wonder if the education given above appears in any of our State sponsored high school textbooks?  Is it described in Race To The Top?  Common Core Standards?

Or, do they continue to teach the Obama mantra of:

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Education, Taxes

 

Tags: , , ,

Obama World: EPA Assualt On Property Rights

From Phil Kerpen at American’s for Prosperity:

President Obama wants to control all the land and all the water in the United States.

Legislation that would have deleted the word “navigable” from the federal Clean Water Act and given the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over every drop of moisture in the country crashed and burned last Congress, ending the 36-year congressional career of its lead sponsor, Jim Oberstar, in the process.

But Obama’s EPA, as usual, won’t take no for an answer, and is now attempting to ignore two Supreme Court decisions, commonsense, and the American people and vastly expand federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction via a guidance document.  A bipartisan group of 170 members of Congress told them not to, but they are doing it anyway.

If the EPA and Army Corps succeed, they can exercise effective control over all land and water in the United States.  The green groups are fired up and pouring comments into the docket supporting this outrageous power grab, and we need to fight back.

The docket closes on July 31st, there is no time to spare. Please take action today!

AFP is working to protect us from out-of-control regulatory advances, here from the EPA, and from the FCC and their attack on the freedom and free market of the Internet.  I was fortunate to attend an AFP briefing early this year regarding the FCC Internet takeover, and the information provided was invaluable!

I urge you to support their efforts by subscribing to their informative e-mails and using their simple service to contact your Congressmen (et al) to weigh in on the varying issues of the day.

Their e-mail above provides a link to a simple method by which to contact, in this case, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.  Here is a sample of such an e-mail:

The first time you will be asked to provide the same information you’d be asked to provide on your Congressman or Senator’s web site.  For future mailings, you’ll only need to provide your e-mail address.

It couldn’t be easier!

In this case the FCC is trying to usurp the Constitution and the Congress by asserting power it has not been granted.  Should sound familiar after Obama posed that he wouldn’t mind if he could just make law without that pesky Constitution and Congress.

 

 
 

Tags: , , , ,

Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 4)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

(Read Part 2 here)

(Read Part 3 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

Over the last few weeks, we have looked at Missouri’s budget numbers and at the Jefferson City politicians’ willingness to ask our children to shoulder these economic times with cuts to their schools. Yet, even after two years of deep cuts to education and with terrifying forecast numbers coming in, the battle to protect our children’s future educational opportunities is just starting.

Over the past two years Missouri has not fully funded the foundation formula for K-12 education. We failed to fund it by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the foundation formula and state law. This is on top of $60 million over the last three years in cuts to transportation funding, another $37 million cut deleting Missouri’s career ladder program and $10 million in withholds and cuts to early childhood’s Parents as Teachers program.

The cuts were not just to K -12 funding but also to higher education. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges have gone without $306.8 million from just 2010.

While education has seen hundreds of millions in cuts, as I pointed out in last week’s column, tax credits are one area that has seen sky-high increases. Over the last 12 years, tax credits have grown 407.9% to $521 million in 2010 and an estimated $698.4 million in 2011. Now, in the midst of not being able to fund what I believe is our state’s number one priority, education, the Jefferson City politicians want to give away more money in tax credits. They do not believe we have spent enough on them and are asking for even more for their campaign contributors.

Currently legislative leaders are pushing for a special session in order to award new tax credits for a St. Louis development called Aerotropolis. The plan for Aerotropolis is to give out $360 million in entitlement tax credits over 15 years to offset landing fees and build cargo facilities near Lambert Airport in St. Louis with the hopes of creating a hub that would attract international trade from areas like China.

The idea is based on a book by journalist Greg Lindsay who told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week “that St. Louis’ plan won’t work.” He continued that “we can’t generate enough cargo traffic to justify a major, long-lasting commitment from any airline, Chinese or otherwise.”

The reason for Lindsay’s skepticism of this becoming an economic engine and instead a waste of your hard earned dollars is for two reasons. First, St. Louis is late to the game as airports in the Midwest, such as Chicago and Memphis have already established the cargo capacity and trade relations for what supporters say these giveaways will create. Second, St. Louis has the highest landing fees among the Midwest airports they would be competing against (as the chart to the left shows).

With Lambert Airport being $1.4 billion in debt, St. Louis wants state tax payers to bail them out of debt by offsetting their high tax to land at the airport. In my opinion, this bailout is just as wasteful as the $100 million in tax credits passed in last year’s special session for Ford, which have yet to create one new job. Developers know this will not be a financial success, otherwise they would move forward with Aerotropolis without government subsidies.

The special interests will take your money and add it to their wallets if this passes as proposed. The Jefferson City politicians again have decided it is time to give more of your hard earned money to their campaign contributors and education will suffer if we don’t stop them.

In the Senate this past legislative session, we passed needed reforms to tax credits and protected education in Missouri. Provisions passed in HB 116 would have capped the amount of tax credits that can be issued each year, such as for the ballooned low-income housing and historic preservation. Renters, who were not paying property tax, would have no longer received a property tax credit, saving the state $57 million dollars a year. New tax credits, like the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), would have been, as I have been calling for, subject to appropriations. And several performance-based credits were consolidated so we can tangibly see the outcomes of our investment while eliminating those tax credits that were not providing a return on investment to the state. The reforms in HB 116 would have saved Missouri taxpayers $1.5 billion over the next 15 years. House leaders though were more focused on their next election; protecting their campaign contributors and the special interests and killed these common sense reforms. They prevented this sweeping reform bill from being passed and now want more new tax credits and less reform.

Cuts to education jeopardize our children’s future. Missouri’s priority should not be in rewarding campaign contributing special interests, but should instead be the full funding of all aspects of education. That is why I oppose a special session that creates new tax credits without meaningful reforms.

There are 18,000,000 Sq Ft of unused warehouse space near the St. Louis airport.  Yet, certain Missouri legislators and Governor Jay Nixon want to give away $360,000,000 of your tax dollars to build more unnecessary warehouse space.

Contact your Senator and Representative today to tell them that you are firmly against this boondoggle.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Taxes

 

Tags: , ,

$17 Trillion In Federal Debt…. …Then What?!?!

If Congress approves a $2.5 Trillion increase in the Debt Limit (which should be called a Tax Increase), what happens when we get to $17 Trillion?

We KNOW Congress will spend that $2.5 Trillion.

Will the Republicans suddenly grow a backbone then?  When we hit $17 Trillion during an election year, will the Republicans actually force the Democrats hand?  Or, will they capitulate when the Democrats and State Run Media beat them over the heads again?!?!

h/t http://politicalhumor.about.com/bio/Daniel-Kurtzman-8621.htm

Obama doesn’t want to balance the budget.  His budget, voted down 97-0 in the Senate ADDED $10 Trillion over the next decade.  The Democrats will NEVER balance the budget!!

The American voters know that and that’s why there was a 60-Seat shift in the House.  That November 2010 vote was to STOP this out of control spending.

Now is the time to force the Democrats into a balanced budget by refusing to up the Debt Limit!

Stand Firm!

Be a statesman and not a politician… …because a vote for the Gang of Six compromise will be the end of your political career anyway!

 

Tags: , ,

Sermon – 07/17/2011

On 07/17/2011, I was again honored to be asked to lead the services at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau, MO.  With a focus on the Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30/36-43, I prepared and delivered the following sermon to the glory of God!

Matthew 13:24-30/36-43

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

h/t AAA Jack's Blog

The Sermon

Pastor probably already mentioned that the 13th Chapter of Matthew is a chapter of parables – seven of them: The Parable of the Sower; The Parable of the Weeds; The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast; The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl; and The Parable of the Net. Our Lord Jesus called them “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”.

These parables, according to Scofield’s Reference Notes, “describe the result of the presence of the Gospel in the world during the present age, that is, the time of seed sowing which began with our Lord’s personal ministry, and ends with the ‘harvest’.”

Mark and Luke have their own, more concise, versions of the 13th Chapter. The 8th Chapter of Mark and the 4th Chapter of Luke share some of the same parables. Those Books included two additional parables that were not included in the 13th Chapter of Matthew: The Parable of the Revealed Light and The Parable of the Fruitful Earth. I count 9 in total.

At this time in His ministry, Jesus is traveling and ministering in Galilee. These parables were spoken on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and this teaching takes place between the 2nd and 3rd Passover Feasts of His ministry. More than ‘The Twelve’ were regularly traveling with Him, and the Gospel of Luke goes so far as to list three of the women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna.

The Chapter begins with Jesus leaving the house and sitting by ‘the lake’. He then boarded ‘a boat’ to be heard by the large crowd that had gathered. In other versions of The Bible, ‘the lake’ is ‘the sea’ (The Sea of Galilee) and ‘a boat’ is ‘a ship’. I wondered whose house he had left, and found in my readings, that it was the house of Peter.

In my last sermon, I calculated that Peter was speaking to at least 3001 people at the Pentecost of Jesus’ death and resurrection, so we could probably surmise that a similar or larger crowd would gather to hear Jesus’ words – especially this far into His divine ministry. Several times throughout His ministry, Jesus boarded a boat (or a ship) to better be heard by the crowds. I’ve read of natural amphitheaters along the sea in Galilee that would amplify Jesus voice to be heard by the thousands gathered.

What kind of people do you think were in this crowd? Pharisees? Sadducees? Wealthy landowners? Military men? Probably not many. The crowd was likely made up of peasants, workers, slaves, small farmers, merchants, and entertainers. However, our story today is based around the activities of a wealthy landowner.

He had fields and barns; he had slaves, servants and harvesters. He had a lot of land and was likely very wealthy.

And…he sowed some seeds.

Now, I’m not a wealthy owner of fields, and the only garden I have is one of those upside-down tomato plants. But, I’ve sure spread my share of grass seed around the yard, and I’ve seen exactly the results that Jesus describes in last week’s Parable of the Sower. Some of it fell on the sidewalk, and of course, the Robins ate it. Some fell right next to the driveway, and it grew fast. But it didn’t have room to spread out its roots, so it died. Some fell next to the weeds, and the sun never had a chance to make them grow. And some fell in the front yard on good soil, and grew a beautiful lawn… …this past spring… …but is now arid, dry and dying in the hot summer sun.

I’ve also had a similar horticultural experience to today’s Parable of the Weeds. I think it was in in 2007. I did everything I knew to do. I used a 25-Gallon sprayer on the back of a 4-wheeler to kill the weeds; I waited; I put down the Weed and Feed; I waited; I put down the grass seed; I watered; I watered; and I watered. Then as the summer went along, a beautiful dark green grass spread across the lawn. I watered some more. One of my neighbors commented about how nice the lawn looked. But as time went along, I became unhappy with how the grass grew. It grew sideways across the lawn. It was so thick that I had to keep cutting it higher and higher. It sent shoots over the sidewalks and the driveway. It had ugly seed pods that quickly shot above the growth line of the rest of the grass. I, like the servants, wondered what kind of grass seed I had sown.

I turned to the Master – in this case, the Internet. I pulled up pictures of grass, and quickly found that I was the proud owner of a lawn filled with Crabgrass. For all my 40+ years, I was absolutely sure that Crabgrass was this other horrible thing that I had seen from time to time. I too couldn’t tell the difference between the good grass and the Crabgrass until well after it had grown throughout the lawn.

The positive side of that story?!?! …my neighbor obviously didn’t know it Crabgrass was either.

The weeds of today’s parable are also called “Tares” or darnel (in Latin: Lolium temulentum). It’s a poisonous weed that is actually related to wheat and looks just like wheat in the early stages of its growth. Its poisonous properties are believed to come from a fungus that, when poisoned, gives on a feeling of drunkenness. It can cause death.

Matfran, a Biblical commentator, notes that to sow darnel amongst a person’s wheat was punishable under Roman Law, and this parable may well have been drawn directly from events which were known to most of Jesus’ hearers.

Considering that rival farmers often feuded at the time, it is not surprising that Roman law would specifically forbid sowing such poisonous plants in another’s field. If you found an abundance of such weeds in your field, you would certainly suspect your enemy’s hand.

One can easily see that the Wealthy Landowner would blame an enemy. He certainly cannot sell poisonous weeds among his good grain. Let’s not poison our customers, eh.

At this point, it would be very helpful if I were a well-studied Pastor or other theologian that had much much more knowledge of Scripture… …because as I studied for today’s sermon, I came across two different interpretations of The Parable of the Weeds. If I was more learned, I could better discern the correct interpretation and discuss it with you. So indulge me and we’ll review them both, and we can decide for ourselves.

The difference in the interpretations was centered on Jesus’ explanation of today’s parable in verse 38. Specifically verse 38 starts with the words, “the field is the world”.

  • Most of the interpretations I reviewed considered ‘the field’ to be the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth – in other words, The Church. It was the seed that God, through Jesus, spread during his ministry on Earth.
  • The other interpretation considered ‘the field’ to be, literally, the World.

Well, if ‘the field’ is only those within The Church, then we better start looking at who’s sitting here today, cause we’ve got some weeds within our mix. I immediately thought of Phil… …just kidding.

I could certainly be that weed in our midst. With the thoughts that go through my head regarding Christianity and religion-in-general, I could easily find myself to be judged as a weed if today were the harvest and the end of the age.

Maybe it’s all of us. The Central States Synod of the ELCA certainly may think that all of us here at St. Mark are weeds; the Baptists over the hill may think we are weeds because we don’t practice full immersion baptism; the Catholics may think we are weeds because we don’t engage in priestly confession.

Maybe it’s all of them. I disagree with churches that don’t practice open communion. Does that make them the weed?

Pick any reason or difference between two Christians, two church buildings, or two denominations, and you can call out the other as weeds. The interpretation of the words in verse 38 as ‘the field’ meaning ‘the church’ is as correct as the other, but it sets up an environment where one person or one group might (incorrectly) judge another.

I have to say that I agree more with the second interpretation – that ‘the field’ is, literally, the World. We know that God’s realm, God’s kingdom, and God’s might rules over and includes all of the earth – indeed over all Space and Time. So, when Jesus sowed the seeds, he sowed them throughout the Earth, not just in the burgeoning Christian Church. And, the evil one came in the night and sowed the weeds… ..throughout the Earth.

And for all the time that man and woman shall inhabit the Earth, the weeds sown by the evil one will dwell among us. Or, if we are weeds, we shall dwell among the good seeds sown by Jesus. The Master has chosen to let us be until the time of the harvest.

There is a big omission in the explanation of this parable if you take the good seed versus the tares too literally. Without some serious and quick evolutionary steps, the good seeds cannot turn into the tares, and the tares cannot turn into the good seeds.

But, that is not true for the human race, and that is the part of the parable that Jesus did not explain. Men and women have the unique opportunity to turn away from the evil of being a weed and turn toward the righteousness of being the good seed. In other words, we can become children of the kingdom if we, simply, believe. That’s all we can do is believe. We are still sinners, but, if we believe, the rest is done for us through God’s infinite love and grace. That’s good news.

And, even better news is that through our work here at St. Mark Lutheran Church, we can become a big part of that evolution of turning others from the evil of the weed toward the Kingdom on Earth. And guess what, our part in this transformation is written on the front of our bulletins, and we talk about it every week.

Our mission is to: Celebrate the Word of God and Respond to Human Need.

By celebrating the Word of God and responding to human need, we can be that community of believers that awakens the bad seeds to the truth of God, Jesus and everlasting life. Through our efforts and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be like that light that is shining at the end of the age – a beacon that helps to draw those planted by the evil one to the love and abundance of our one God.

Amen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 19, 2011 in Miscellaneous, The Bible

 

Tags: , , ,

It’s Not A Debt Increase…

IT’S A TAX INCREASE!!

The current description of the negotiations regarding increasing the debt limit is a fallacy.  We are not negotiating to increase the debt limit, we are negotiating to increase taxes.  We may or may not increase the tax rates on some or all individuals or corporations, but raising the debt limit is still a tax increase.

Republicans, Libertarians, Conservatives and Tea Partiers better start calling this what it is:  A TAX INCREASE!

Why?  Let’s look at it with smaller numbers…

Let’s say the government takes $10.00 in taxes and spent all that money, but they also borrowed and spent another $1.00 for a total of $11.00.  To pay off the government, citizens will pay taxes.  Is the $11.00 repayment going to require more taxes?  Or less taxes?

Is the extra $1.00 that the taxpayers will now have to redeem to the government a tax increase? Or a tax decrease?

Let’s try with larger numbers…

Government was authorized to collect taxes at a certain rate – say $100 per year.  However, they’ve been spending $140 to $160 per year since the advent of the Obama administration.  Our federal government has spent more than the authorized $100 every year since 1968… …to the point that they owe that $100 plus $5,800

If we give them another $100 on that debt limit, what do you think they’re going to do?  They’re going to spend it!  It will be another $100 added to the $5,800 that we already owe.

Let’s use the real numbers…

The Federal Government is currently authorized, based on tax rates, to collect about $2.1 Trillion per year.  In 2009 and 2010, the Obama Administration spent $3.4 Trillion and $3.5 Trillion per year.  So, in 2011, taxpayers must now pay the $2.1 Trillion authorized PLUS the additional $2.7 Trillion from the 2009 and 2010 PLUS whatever deficit spending occurs in 2011.

h/t thegatewaypundit.com

More Taxes; More Deficit; More Taxes; More Deficit; More Taxes.

This is not a debt ceiling increase; we better start calling it what it is:  A TAX INCREASE!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on July 18, 2011 in Conservative, Taxes, Tea Party

 

Tags: , ,

Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 3)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

(Read Part 2 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

As part of our look into Missouri’s current budget situation, we previously examined where we are, where we are headed and some of the factors that have put us in this situation. In my opinion, the politicians have failed to act and instead pushed Missouri’s budget deficit off to the future. Because of the situation Missouri is in, now is the time for leaders to enact real reforms that will make sure the spending of your tax dollars are in line with our values.

One area where Missouri can reform is in the process of awarding a large number of tax credits at the cost of cuts to education. Politicians always say education is their number one priority, yet their actions show a different truth. They continue to show tax credits are their number one priority by continuing to increase the amount of tax credits given out by 407.9% over the last 12 years. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax liability that would otherwise be due to the state. This means that every dollar that is given away in a tax credit is a dollar that our state government must replace by increasing taxes or making cuts in current programs; and taking more of your hard earned money is not an option.

The state offers many tax credits for a diverse list of causes, including historic preservation, low-income housing, livestock breeding, and business development. But the popularity of tax credits can often be traced to the pockets of big businesses and special interests. These special interests are well represented by lobbyists in the halls of the Capitol who convince legislators that special interest tax credits create jobs or enhance economic development when all they really do is line the pockets of their beneficiaries.

One of the biggest offenders of using Missouri’s scarce resources are the developers receiving the Low Income Housing Tax Credits. This program provides federal and state tax credits to investors where, each year for 10 years, these tax credits can be sold to raise equity to construct or acquire and rehabilitate affordable rental housing. Low Incoming Housing Tax Credits though, are, as a 2008 report by the Missouri Auditor called it, “costly” and “inefficient.” The audit showed that only 35 cents for every dollar in tax credits go to development costs while the remaining 65 cents go to investor needs. The same auditor’s report also criticized the selection process of not documenting how projects are selected; suggesting that political influence impacts the selection of Low Income Housing Tax Credits.

I believe it is this political influence that made Missouri # 2 in the nation in 2009 for Low Income Housing Tax Credits ($106 million) and #1 in the nation for Historic Preservation Tax Credits ($186 million). At the same time, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Missouri is 45th in per capita funding of higher education and 32nd in per capita funding for K-12. I believe this spending is backwards and does not represent our priorities.

In Missouri, the method by which we set Missouri’s priorities in spending your tax dollars is in the appropriation process. Through this process, we ask each of the state’s expenses to stand in line before your representatives in the General Assembly; requiring them to demonstrate why, with limited resources, they should be funded over others. The problem with Missouri’s current tax credit system is the politically connected who receive tax credits, cut to the front of the line, receiving their $521 million in 2010 first, without ever coming before your elected representatives. Then, after waiting in line, when education finally reached the front of the line, the politicians had to tell teachers and students, sorry, we don’t have the money to fund our educational needs and underfunded K-12 funding by $23.8 million.

This is why as part of protecting educational opportunities; we must incorporate fundamental reform to Missouri’s tax credit system. My plan is to subject tax credits to the appropriations process. This way, instead of playing favorites by being able to cut ahead of the line, tax credits will be made to stand in line like every other state expenditure. In this process, your elected representatives will have the chance to look at all the things we spend your tax dollars on and prioritize accordingly. It also creates a transparent process for developers to be held accountable for a return on investment for receiving your hard earned tax dollars.

I believe we need to reform tax credits, not spend more on them through the creation of new ones. But sadly, House leaders disagree. In next week’s column, I will share with you the coming battle to protect our children’s future educational opportunities versus giving away your hard earned tax dollars in tax credits to politicians’ campaign contributors.

Another great place to start is in the waste at MODot.  It’s a stunning waste of money to put up signs telling me that they are widening the road on I-55 between Barnhart and Festus (and other places throughout the state) when it’s obvious that they are working on the road.

It takes just 8 of those signs to wipe out the entirety of my yearly Income Tax contributions to the state coffers.  How many ‘citizen years’ do you think MODot wastes on the fancy new digital signs that are now lining the Interstates and tributaries… …that generally say, “Buckle Your Seat Belts”

And, these are just the most blatant and obvious wastes in the department.

Each expenditure throughout all state departments must be gauged on how many citizens must work all year long to pay for the item with their sales and income taxes!

That is the appropriations process we need!

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Conservative, Taxes

 

Tags: , , ,

Mother Died; Obama Lied

During the 2008 campaign, we heard much about Obama’s mother and her struggle against the insurance companies — about how she worried for her family’s financial health in light of her health care bills.

“I remember in the last month of her life, she wasn’t thinking about how to get well, she wasn’t thinking about coming to terms with her own mortality, she was thinking about whether or not insurance was going to cover the medical bills and whether our family would be bankrupt as a consequence,” Obama said in September 2007.

Not so much.

Ann Dunham, Obama’s Mother, had health insurance from CIGNA according to a new book “A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother,” written by former New York Times reporter Janny Scott.

In the Washington Examiner today, we get the real story from reporter Byron York:

In January 1995 she left Indonesia to go home to Honolulu, where she was diagnosed with advanced uterine and ovarian cancer. She began a regime of surgery and chemotherapy.

That is the time during which Obama says his mother battled insurance companies http://truthorigins.files.wordpress.comto cover her illness. But Scott, who had access to Dunham’s correspondence from the time, reveals that Dunham unquestionably had health coverage. “Ann’s compensation for her job in Jakarta had included health insurance, which covered most of the costs of her medical treatment,” Scott writes. “Once she was back in Hawaii, the hospital billed her insurance company directly, leaving Ann to pay only the deductible and any uncovered expenses, which, she said, came to several hundred dollars a month.”

Scott writes that Dunham, who wanted to be compensated for those costs as well as for her living expenses, “filed a separate claim under her employer’s disability insurance policy.” It was that claim, with the insurance company CIGNA, that was denied in August 1995 because, CIGNA investigators said, Dunham’s condition was known before she was covered by the policy.

“Though he often suggested that she was denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” Scott writes, “it appears from her correspondence that she was only denied disability coverage.”

Yes, politicians embellish their stories all the time, but the magnitude and repetition of Obama’s Mother’s plight and this stunning truth shed new light on the hypocrisy of this President.

This, sadly, continues to highlight the ignorance or ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ of those that voted for this charlatan.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Obama, White House

 

Tags: , , , ,

Senator Crowell: On The Missouri State Budget (Part 2)

By Missouri State Senator Jason Crowell (jcrowell@senate.mo.gov):

(Read Part 1 here)

Missouri’s State Budget

We must Stop Balancing the Budget on the

Backs of our Children through Education Cuts

As part of our look into Missouri’s current budget situation, we previously examined where we are, where we are headed and some of the factors that have put us in this situation. In my opinion, the politicians have failed to act and instead pushed Missouri’s budget deficit off to the future. The past two annual budgets have been built on hundreds of millions of one-time federal stabilization and stimulus dollars, which are now gone. And while maintaining inflated state spending levels using these one-time federal bailout dollars, the state still spent more than it had.

In 2009, Missouri saw a revenue decline of -6.9% ($585 million) followed with another revenue decline in 2010 of -9.1% ($676 million). And while this past year, 2011, there was a modest gain of 5.93% ($401.9 million) from 2010, we are still $827.7 million below the 2008 high-water mark in revenues.

With these revenue declines as a warning, the state took limited steps to right size government to match revenues. In the past two sessions, the General Assembly:

  • Passed reforms to the pension plans covering Missouri’s state employees and judges. Through the establishment of a new benefit tier for state employees and judges hired on or after January 1, 2011, pension reform legislation brought these Missouri pension plans into line with current economic realities and changes in the demographics of state employees. These reforms will save taxpayers more than $650 million over the next 10 years.
  • Ended the free printing of State Manuals, known as the Blue Book, and stopped providing judges and General Assembly member’s free volumes of Missouri State Statutes saving taxpayers $1.7 million every two years.
  • Merged Missouri’s Water Patrol and Highway Patrol into one law enforcement agency. With one law enforcement agency, taxpayer dollars were used more efficiently by deleting redundant systems and minimizing equipment and buildings being duplicated by both agencies, saving taxpayers an estimated $900,000 a year.

But those limited steps were not and are not enough. Even combined with $2.851 billion in one-time Federal Stabilization funds from 2009 to 2012 and another $1.861 billion in Federal Stimulus funds, Missouri did not fully fund the foundation formula for K-12 education by $23 million in 2009, another $74 million in 2011, and another $177 million in 2012. In total, K-12 education has not received $274 million it should have, according to the state foundation formula, in the last three years as well as over $60 million in cuts to transportation funding. Furthermore, Missouri’s funding for higher education is also being cut. In 2011, funding decreased by 10% followed by another 7% in 2012, totaling $186.5 million. This means Missouri’s universities and community colleges will have to find ways, most likely through tuition and fee increases, to cover an overall reduction in higher education funding of $306.8 million from the high-water mark of 2010. The politicians have said to you that education is their number one priority, but they have done very little in Jefferson City to prove it.

Get this… …the Missouri Legislature has run a deficit balanced the budget over the 4 years based on Federal funds.  In other words, the budget was not balanced based on Missouri’s tax and spending.  This is the same line that Republicans and Democrats tell you when they say they balanced the budget in 2000-2001.

I believe we should not be asking our children to sacrifice their educational opportunities because Missouri government cannot find ways to spend your hard earned tax dollars more efficiently and effectively. The past three years have been a perfect opportunity for leaders to take bold actions in government spending that would have protected education from these cuts. Instead, the politicians in Jefferson City failed because they have been more focused on their next election and their campaign contributors than with the realities of today.

As we continue to discuss Missouri’s budget, I do not just want to point to missed opportunities. I also want to highlight future opportunities to make real reforms so that educational opportunities to our children can be protected. In the coming weeks, I will share with you commonsense reforms that will put Missouri’s spending in line with our values. The answer is not found in raising taxes, or going into debt through bonding or even using the state’s rainy day fund. The answer is found by taking an honest approach to our priorities in how your money is spent and by passing legislative reforms that do not put special interests before our children’s educational opportunities. Now is the time for leaders to lead so that our children’s future does not continue to suffer the cost of our state’s backward spending priorities.

Although I think there is plenty of room to reduce bureaucracy and spending in Missouri’s Education System, I look forward to Senator Crowell’s future thoughts on the way to balance the budget without reducing education spending!

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write to me at Jason Crowell; Missouri Senate; State Capitol; Jefferson City, MO 65101, or e-mail me at: jcrowell@senate.mo.gov or visit me on the web at http://www.senate.mo.gov/crowell.

h/t senate.mo.gov

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 12, 2011 in Balanced Budget, Conservative, Taxes

 

Tags: , , ,