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Holden's State of the State Address Skirts Issues, Say Critics

January 23, 2002
By: Nicholas Rummell
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Bob Holden's State of the State address Wednesday left out some of the biggest issues being debated by Missouri lawmakers -- including transportation and the property tax system.

Instead, Holden focused much of his speech on the state's budget crisis and plans on how to get more money for education.

Dr. Rick Hardy, political science professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said that focusing primarily on the budget is typical of a State of the State address.

"The Budget is the most political document in the government," said Hardy. "The best blueprint for anybody's administration is the Budget."

The Budget and Legislative Agenda, presented with the address, outlines specific programs and initiatives that the governor wants to spearhead, while the address itself is meant to highlight the governor's priorities.

However, Holden's State of the State address only focused on the economic crisis and, to a lesser extent, education, evading other key statewide issues.

That Holden would almost exclusively focus on budgetary cuts in his speech is unusual, said Hardy, and "will have the GOP asking: `Where's the beef?'".

Minutes after the conclusion of Holden's speech, Republican legislators held a press conference to do just that.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, stated that transportation, the recent Ford auto plant closing, and economic development were absent from Holden's speech.

Kinder said he plans to take the lead role in advancing an economic stimulus package, a proposal that was lacking in the State of the State address.

Rep. Ted Farnen, D-Mexico, said he feels clear where Holden's priorities lie, and is glad the governor is on top of crucial issues like homeland security.

"He's got a pretty good picture of what the state should address," said Farnen. "He summed it up."

Although some Democrats support Holden's priorities, the speech outraged Rep. Quincy Troupe, D-St. Louis City, a longtime budgetary legislator.

"What sickened me was that he attributed all our economic woes to Sept. 11. He is trying to tie the budget into 9/11," said Troupe.

Troupe also found the State of the State address to be watery in parts, stating that Holden skirted many, if not all, of the important issues.

"What did he say about transportation? That is critical," he said.

During last year's address, Holden spoke on prescription drugs, education, the tobacco settlement money, drunk driving, and improving roads and bridges, among other issues.