Sen. Rowden calls state budget "deeply troubled"

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COLUMBIA - Sen. Caleb Rowden discussed Missouri's budget and economic growth at the Show-Me Institute's 2017 Missouri Legislative Update on Tuesday.

According to Rowden, the state's budget is "deeply troubled right now."

Rowden said he wants to find long-term solutions to grow the economy. He said this would address issues with Missouri’s budget and higher education.

“If you can figure out a way to grow the economy year over year in a very significant way, it fixes a lot of those issues,” Rowden said.

Rowden said the unbalanced budget is a big result of Medicaid, which he referred to as a significant problem and out of control.

“We’re going to spend 10 billion dollars of a 28 billion dollar budget on Medicaid this year,” Rowden said. “As long as Medicaid is growing at the level that it is, higher education is going to continue to suffer and K through 12 education is going to continue to suffer.”

Rowden said states should be able to decide Medicaid issues for themselves. He said Republicans and Democrats should come together to have a conversation about it.

Homer Page, former chair of the Boone County Democratic Headquarters, said the budget's chaos is not because of Medicaid but because of "complete irresponsibility" on the Republican Party.

"Basically, what the Republican Party has done is given tax loopholes and tax cuts to the wealthiest people and pushed the real cost of government down on the lower income people," Page said. "They are well on the way to ruining Missouri."

The University of Missouri was another topic of conversation at the policy forum. Rowden said he supports UM System President Mun Choi's efforts to keep Mizzou a research-centered institution.

"Mizzou's gonna have to understand what they're good at and be better at it than anybody else," he said.

Rowden said this will positively impact Missouri's economic development.

Page agrees that investment in the university's scientific research will advance growth, but said Republicans need to put action plans into place to make this a reality."

"In order for that to really be effective, we've got to invest in it," he said. "I'd like to see Rowden put his money where his mouth is."

Rowden said the purpose of the policy forum was to explore the most effective ways of growing Missouri's economy.

"I think that's the goal of the legislature in general, just to figure out 'How do we bust through this ceiling we've seen with 1 or 2 percent growth?'" Rowden said. "I think that can have a really substantive and generational sort of impact on the state."