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Washington is Broke & Broken: It's Time to Look to the States

October 17, 2013

At a recent discussion hosted by Americans for Prosperity – Missouri, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said, “The federal government is now broke and broken.  The only way to change Washington is by changing the states.”

In Washington right now the federal government just ended its shutdown, and the examples of the federal government’s failures are all too obvious. Americans are asking: can we afford a federal healthcare plan that will cost taxpayers almost $2 trillion dollars?  After five years why does the unemployment rate remain stubbornly high?  What do we do about a record number of Americans on food stamps and public assistance?  Is doubling our national debt in five years to $17 trillion dollar high enough?  Why do we continue to raise the debt ceiling?

While Congress seems committed to doubling down on the failed policies of the past, governors and legislative chambers are embracing innovative solutions in the states, setting an example –and a competitive challenge – for Missouri.

These forward thinking governors and legislative bodies are passing reforms that spur job growth, create leaner state governments, and result in increased revenues time and time again.  For instance, Indiana, North Carolina and Kansas have all passed comprehensive tax reform measures that have placed their states in the top competitive brackets for job growth while Missouri couldn’t override a veto of a measly half of one percent tax reduction over a ten year period with revenue triggers.

Indiana’s massive reforms displaced Texas on the top ten most competitive state business tax climates, as ranked by the non-partisan Tax Foundation. That same Index saw Kansas move from 26th to 20th and predicts that North Carolina could move from 44th to 17th in coming years, as tax reforms are passed into law. These competitive advantages will encourage more entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses and allow workers to keep more of their growing paychecks.

Taxes are not the only secret to a strong economy.  Promoting worker freedom for example, encourages companies to build strong firms with happy, hard-working employees. Data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis reveals that right-to-work states enjoy nearly double the job growth of non-right-to-work states. That’s why Indiana passed right-to-work in 2012, making it the 23rd state to do so and joining Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa in placing workers above union bosses.

Reducing regulatory burdens on businesses and its citizens is another example of free market solutions to growing a state economy.  That’s why Florida Governor Rick Scott established and executive order that has resulted in 2,600 state rules and regulations being streamlined, reduced or eliminated.  Small business owners tell us all the time if you just get government out of the way they will create jobs.

Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, and Indiana have demonstrated that cutting spending, reducing regulations, lowering taxes, and reforming healthcare, education, and labor are essential to our long-term success as individuals and as a nation.  As more states embrace policies that promote economic freedom, the federal government and Missouri must do the same.

Governor Brownback also said when he became the Governor of Kansas “that he didn’t want to manage a state in slow decline.”  Governor Nixon’s short-sided agenda of ramping up spending while rejecting the first tax cut in nearly 100 years is a formula for managing a state in slow decline.

If we don’t make the necessary changes in our legislature to promote economic freedom, Missouri will continue as a state in slow decline.  The American Legislative Exchange Council ranks Missouri 47th in state GDP, 42nd in economic performance in the last 10 years, 23rd in economic outlook for 2013, and 24th in domestic migration as we see our friends and neighbors leave for more economically friendly states.

The time has come for Missouri to embrace policies that will lead us down a true path to prosperity.  Governor Nixon must stop looking towards a “broke and broken” Washington and instead start looking to the Midwestern states that are getting it right.

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