June 9, 2005

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if government occasionally wasted our tax dollars? We are all human, and mistakes do happen, but letís face it, sometimes there just is no excuse. How in the world could lawmakers justify paying tax dollars for Viagra for registered sex offenders?

Thatís right, we Missourians helped insure that 26 registered sex offenders had the drug. Thatís sort of like buying bullets for convicted murderers.

Fortunately lawmakers recently corrected this oversight after the federal Medicare and Medicaid offices began notifying states they did not have to offer reimbursement for the drugs for sex offenders.

Missouri was not alone. New York made our $7,060 expenses look minuscule as that state medicated nearly 200 sex offenders with Viagra.

The beauty of partisan politics is that Iím sure these 26 sex offenders were counted among the 90,000 Missourians that were cut from the Medicaid program as the Republican-led legislature tries to pare down the more than one million state residents receiving state aid for medical expenses. Just goes to show you that you can make statistics say whatever you want.

Letís just hope the lawmakers can uncover more legitimate areas to cut the bloated program while still maintaining coverage for the truly needy.

Speaking of tax dollars and the truly needyÖ lets talk about our stateís roads. We country folk always bristle up with the mention of tax dollars going to build another bypass, interchange or big-dollar project in St. Louis or Kansas City while we sit and wait for decent shoulders and replacements for one-lane bridges.

But a recent national survey revealed that our stateís two largest urban centers are in need of the transportation dollars as bad as we are. As a matter of fact, Kansas City ranked number 1 in a recent report on urban areas with poor roads. St. Louis was not far behind, trailing only its in-state neighbor and San Jose, CA, for the nationís worst streets.

The study, performed by TRIP, a research group focusing on transportation, revealed that 71 percent of Kansas City roads are ranked as substandard. St. Louis roads came in at 66 percent deficient for pavement quality.

The report noted that residents of Missouriís two biggest cities spend more than $650 a year in added vehicle maintenance due to the rough road conditions.

Iím always an advocate for rural Missouri getting its fair share of the transportation dollar, but this makes it look painfully obvious we will not likely get more than our fair share for some time. It makes it even more painfully obvious, that while our lawmakers struggle to make cuts in programs such as Medicaid to offset budget woes, we taxpayers simply must step up, and step up soon, to provide substantially more money for our stateís transportation system before itís too late to fix.

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