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Nick Thompson's Blog in 2013
Legislative session picks up steam, and I'm along for the ride

Posted 03/03/2013:  I have been covering politics in Jefferson City now for about six months, and no words best sum how much I have learned about government reporting, the political process and the challenges facing this great state. As a lifelong Missourian, this reporting experience has enhanced my appreciation of the state's diversity and opened my eyes to real problems that policymakers are tasked with solving each day at the capitol.

The Medicaid expansion issue seems to stir up more of a diversity of opinion each day it is talked about in the statehouse. I have seen few political issues this contentious, or at least have not understood them as well and been this close to them. It seems that in the media, we no longer have to explain the issue as much to our readers, viewers, or listeners. More and more Missourians understand how we got here with the Supreme Court decision last summer and understand what is at stake. The state's major newspapers have driven home the benefits of a full expansion on the editorial pages nearly every weekend. Some of these stories are incredibly captivating in their description of the human benefits of the expansion. A piece in Parade this week profiles a country doctor in Georgia and he poses the question we are all attempting to answer in the nation's health discourse, and in Missouri's case, Medicaid expansion:

"But we're talking about societal issues now. Is health care a privilege or a right, and who pays for it? And how much do you get when there's a limited resource?"

In the Medicaid expansion debate, this is what is at stake. Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, unveiled his "market-based" Medicaid solution last week. The legislature is sure to pick some of its final details apart, but it seems Missouri will not turn down the federal money outright now. The decision now rests between a full expansion or a plan to expand the program in a way that meets the fiscal expectations of some lawmakers. If Missouri does not expand Medicaid, it risks leaving all of those between its current Medicaid income thresholds and those eligible for subsidies in the health exchanges in a "donut hole." 

The issue of economic development has also driven interesting debate. Some Republican lawmakers have proposed tax cuts to keep Missouri competitive with Kansas. The supply-side economists of the Reagan era will tell you that people flood from areas with high taxes to those with low ones and Kansas has rolled out the red carpet for Kansas City businesses to make the leap which worries Missouri lawmakers. However, Kansas also had to cut funds for schools and other services to make up for the loss in revenue. The fiscal notes with some of the tax cut bills in the legislature project budget holes as much as $1.2 billion after some cuts are phased in- -- that amount is roughly one-eighth of the general revenue Gov. Jay Nixon's budget accounted for in FY 2013.

Did I mention these are just some of the issues facing this General Assembly? It has been a fun ride and I enjoy healthy political discourse that is so important to Missouri's future. All this experience has prepared me for my next task: covering the state budget.

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