If you’ve followed politics for any amount of time, you know the mantra: All politics is local. That couldn’t be more true, but when I talk to folks, I hear “Trump and Biden” a lot. Let me tell you why Jefferson City is more important to Missourians than Washington, D.C.
When I have knocked on doors for local candidates, myself included, I have often talked about the horrible state of our roads in northwest Missouri, and how many of our schools have gone to four-day week schedules. I had several folks answer these facts with, “Well, Biden …”
Friends, Joe Biden has no idea where Maryville is. Your state representative does, and he is the one defunding schools (causing those four-day weeks) and starving the Missouri Department of Transportation of funds (causing all those cracked and crumbling roads ) even while the state has a $8 billion surplus.
The Missouri GOP has held legislative control of the state for two decades. Yes, 20 years. There is a disconnect between what I hear folks say when we are standing on their porch and what is actually going on in Missouri. I hear a lot of my neighbors complain about Democrats and the way they’ve shaped things in the state. Wait — what?
There is not one Democrat holding a statewide office in Missouri. The last one was Auditor Nicole Galloway and she left office more than a year ago. If there is any one party to blame for the way our state is functioning, there is only the GOP to answer. Its members occupy the governor’s office and they have supermajorities in both the state House and Senate.
Democratic cities’ local control overruled
Sometimes critics will say, “Oh, yeah? Now do the cities where Democrats are in charge.”
OK. Did you know that Republican state legislators have passed laws that prohibit local control, tying the hands of blue city mayors and overriding what the people who live there want? When confronted with local legislation they disagree with, Republicans in the state legislature have weighed in and banned it. They’ve overruled local minimum wage requirements, denied Kansas City’s Democratic mayor any local control over the police department and forced the biggest cities to work with gun legislation that harms their residents. Last year, they even tried to overturn a ban on cat declawing that had been adopted in St. Louis.
The Republicans own this state and the problems they’ve created — even in the cities.
What does the Missouri GOP have to show for 20 years of legislative dominance in our state? We are now ranked 50th in teacher pay and 49th in educational funding. Missouri funds only about 32% of a local school’s budget, which means 68% of that school’s needs come from local property taxes. In my rural town of 480 people, that’s tough.
High gun homicides, rural hospitals at risk
What other metrics can we thank our local GOP reps for attaining? We rank ninth highest in gun deaths and in the top 10 states with the highest gun-related homicide rates. in 2007, the Republicans repealed a permit-to-purchase law that had been on the books for 80 years. Afterward, there was an increase in the gun homicide rate of 47%. And while we’re second in the nation in men killing their intimate partners with guns, some GOP lawmakers want domestic violent offenders to keep their guns.
Children who can’t legally drive a car yet can openly carry guns down Missouri streets. Have I mentioned that guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Missouri?
Another 35% of Missouri’s rural hospitals are currently at risk of closing because they aren’t bringing in enough revenue, and don’t have enough reserves. This is a complication of not expanding Medicaid years ago.
Please, pay attention to state politics. Medicaid was expanded by the people, not by politicians. “Right-to-work” (for less) was beaten back by the people. Medical and recreational marijuana were approved by the people. We had to fight for these things using the ballot initiative process, which is currently under attack by GOP lawmakers. They don’t want us to have a way to get around their awful policies.
Our lives are most impacted by state politics. Your local rep voted for an abortion ban that would force your niece to deliver a pregnancy resulting from rape, or your wife to die because she’s septic with an nonviable pregnancy. Your local rep let rural hospitals close by refusing to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid. Your local rep voted against union wages.
Your local Republican representative is playing footsie with donors from inside and outside Missouri, rather than passing meaningful legislation to make your life better.
Jessica Piper is the executive director of the continuing committee Blue Missouri, a former Democratic nominee for Missouri House District 1, a former teacher and a rural mom fighting for public schools.