The idea of returning the state’s rural roads to the counties is a non-starter

  

By Cindy O’Laughlin, R-SD 18 candidate and co-owner of Leo O’Laughlin, Inc.

Over the years, there have been several proposals in the Missouri General Assembly to turn over the state’s lettered routes back to the counties. To those of us in Rural Missouri, this is a non-starter.

As someone that depends on the state’s lettered routes to get to work and other activities of daily living, I know and understand the importance these routes have for our state’s economy, public safety and particularly, our farm to market commerce.

The question then comes to whether or not the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) should receive more funding.

I commend MODOT for their efforts to realign their workforce in the last decade; unlike every other government entity, MODOT shrank. And it’s because of the hard-working men and women that work with their hands at this agency that we did not see a change in the service they provide.

COURTESY/CINDY O’LAUGHLIN

Gas taxes, tolls, sin taxes and sales taxes to pay for road improvements are controversial. If politicians were more responsible, perhaps none of them would be on the table and the state would actually cut costs to put funds in places that matter – our roads and schools.

In our business, we like to look at the big cost drivers. In Missouri, that’s Medicaid and other entitlement programs. We, as a society, are paying people not to work. In some instances, people need a safety net. This is particularly important for those that can not work for developmental or physical disabilities.

However, there are some that choose not to work. Government gives an incentive for this by paying for housing, insurance, food, etc. If you marry your live-in or choose to be gainfully employed – poof – your assistance disappears. There’s no sliding scale. There’s no incentive to do what’s right. It’s government telling people to make the wrong choice, which government is really, really good at.

The federal government often designs safety nets for states and with minimum requirements. If a state chooses to participate (and they all do) then you must meet these requirements. That’s state’s rights in 2017. Washington, DC designs the program, dangles the funding in front of state lawmakers and they all take it. However, the time has come for states to try to develop their own safety net programs without the support of the federal government.

This type of reform would allow states to determine the best safety net for their citizens. It will also allow for state budgeters to put more funds into our roads and schools. Road improvements will lead to more economic activity. Education funding could help move people away from welfare and towards jobs that allow them to work with their hands.

If our state’s economy is to continue to grow, it will be with the type of workers that shower after work, not before. These are the type of men and women that I have worked with my entire life. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of them.

The time has come for politicians to come up with good ideas to put our resources to good use. Taking funding away from our rural roads is not one of them.

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