The following letter from Rep. Noel Torpey and myself was hand-delivered to Gov. Jay Nixon this morning.
May 19, 2014
Dear Governor Nixon,
In six years as governor, you have expressed a consistent willingness to reach across party lines on important issues. We write today to ask that you live up to your own words.
In fact, you’ve stressed the importance of working together in every State of the State address, “Unlike Washington, we’ve worked together like adults,” you said in 2012, “[N]o matter what part of our state we’re from, how we make a living, or what party we belong to.”
In 2013, you reminisced about your own time in the legislature, noting, “Republicans and Democrats didn’t agree on everything back then, just like they don’t now. We had a divided state government, with a Governor of one party, and the other party holding a large majority in the legislature – just like we do now. But we worked together to get things done for the good of the people.”
Just this year, you spoke about the great people of our state. “Here in Missouri,” you said, “folks don’t shy away from challenges – they work together to tackle them. Getting up early… working hard… staying late… and looking out for one another.”
We agree with your consistent message about the need to work together. In order to move forward on the most important issues facing our state, we believe it’s necessary to reach across the aisle and spectrum of political opinion. But doing so is never easy.
For example, over the past two years, you’ve made Medicaid legislation your top priority and repeatedly asked Republicans to put aside partisanship and ideology to move our state forward. And we have joined you to advocate for Medicaid reform and increased access to quality health care for the working poor.
As Republicans who think the ACA as a whole is terrible public policy, it was not easy for us to join you in this endeavor. It remains difficult for us to convince fellow Republicans to reach across the aisle to move this legislation which you clearly believe is the most important issue to face our state in decades. But we did it because we believe the cost of inaction is worse than the cost of taking action.
Just last week, the General Assembly proved it is still able to work across the aisle to pass difficult and controversial legislation which we believe is just as, if not more important than Medicaid. As you are well aware, the legislature Truly Agreed and Finally Passed Senate Bill 493 relating to school transfers with bi-partisan majorities in both chambers. Incredibly, the bill passed by a vote of 29-3 in the Senate and by the narrower margin of 89-67 in the House.
Together, elected officials from both parties, widely-divergent ideologies, and every area of our state made difficult choices and compromises to solve this problem and improve education in struggling school districts. In your words, we got up early, worked hard, stayed late, and got the job done.
Every legislator involved in the SB 493 process found something in the bill which they did not support. But, as responsible legislators, we realized that there’s always an excuse to vote against a bill. If you wait for perfect legislation on the big issues, you’ll never get there.
We understand that you have serious concerns about the private option portion of the bill. But we ask you to live up to your own ideals. Instead of insisting on a bill which is “perfect” to you, we ask that you read the bill as a whole. If you do, we believe you will find that the private option is only a small portion of the bill – a portion we believe is vital and necessary, but a small one nonetheless. Upon review of the bill, we believe you should come to the same conclusion as the bi-partisan, cross-ideological, trans-regional coalition of responsible legislators who made this bill a reality – it is an improvement over existing law.
Just as we stated on the House floor that Senate Bill 493 was a test to see if the legislature was still capable of passing big, difficult legislation in the era of term limits and 24-hour news cycles, so too is it a test for you. Either you truly believe in making the difficult decisions to transcend partisanship and ideology or you don’t.
As you consider how you will act on SB 493, we ask that you consider the message you will send to the General Assembly regarding Medicaid. Just like Medicaid, we believe, in your words from 2009, “The solutions to our problems are within reach. And the only thing that can stop us is the same thing that always stops progress: a failure to listen, a failure to compromise, or a failure to walk a day in someone else’s shoes. By working together, we will tear down old barriers and tackle the challenges we face.”
We look forward to learning of your decision on SB 493 and hope that you live up to the ideals and rhetoric on bi-partisanship which you have so long espoused.
Yours in service,
Rep. Jay Barnes Rep. Noel Torpey