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Republican Lincoln Day Dinner blasts Democrats for overspending in D.C.
Republican Lincoln Day Dinner blasts Democrats for overspending in D.C.

Ron Richard, speaker of the Missouri House, speaks to local Republicans at their Lincoln Day Dinner.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 29, 2009) — Local Republicans at their Lincoln Day Dinner had a message for their national leaders: Missouri is working because its Republican-controlled legislature is showing fiscal prudence when the Democrat-controlled Congress isn’t.

“They fight for what they believe in and they try to stay true to the whole idea of the Republican Party,” said Mike Rouse, chairman of the Pulaski County Republican Central Committee. “I want this evening to be the first step in a long journey. We have some very liberal people in Washington D.C., and we’ve got some people here who know how to balance a budget and take care of tax dollars.”

Introducing Ron Richard, the speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, Rouse told those gathered at the Friday night event that it’s time to see more men like him elected at the national level.

“We need to have people in Washington who are espousing the values we believe in,” Rouse said. “Hopefully the people in Washington, D.C., will listen to us. There are a lot of people who are upset about the bailouts and the trillions of dollars that are being spent.”

Rep. David Day, who represents most of Pulaski County in the Missouri House of Representatives, concurred.

“The Republicans in the House are more united than we’ve ever seen, and that must be like herding ducks or keeping frogs in the wheelbarrow,” Day said.

So what’s the key to that unity?

As speaker, Richard said a clear commitment to fiscal discipline is a key part of what unites the state’s Republican Party, but that’s not the only issue.

“In a time when you have to be watching your nickels and dimes, we should be doing the same thing in state government,” Richard said. “We believe that Republican ideas and values that we have transcend everything else, which is we are solid for the unborn, we are solid for the right to bear arms and keep arms, we are solid for job creation, we are solid for fiscal discipline, to make sure we get through the tough times and have the ability to train our workforce to keep people living in Missouri.”

Careful attention to fiscal restraint now will put Missouri “in the best possible position to go forward and compete” when the national economy rebounds, he said.

Missouri currently has a AAA bond rating — “which is the best you can get,” Richard said — and that didn’t happen without hard work.

“We are one of the very few states that has AAA bonding and that’s because when we do borrow, we borrow at cheap rates,” Richard said. “We are very conservative. We believe you live within your means.”

Rather than increasing taxes to balance the state’s budget, Missouri Republicans have cut taxes to stimulate economic growth and made cuts in spending when necessary, Richard said. That’s quite different from what’s happening at the national level, and Richard said Washington politicians could learn a lesson from Missouri.

“On many issues we’re trying to send more dollars back to you all at home and let you decide what to do with them. I think what you can see different in states, especially under Republican control, is that of course we don’t print money, and there’s a massive debt being done by Washington, D.C.,” Richard said. “Frankly, that debt has been created by both sides of the aisle, both Democrats and Republicans, and they both share the blame.”

To preserve Missouri’s potential for future economic growth, Richard said Missouri needs more nuclear plants, which likely means the expansion of existing facilities in Callaway County, even though the project will likely cost more than a billion dollars.

“I do personally believe this is probably the right energy use for the future. The feds are not going to let us build coal plants,” Richard said. “They’ve got clean coal technology. There’s a lot of cheap coal in Missouri but we can’t build a coal plant. You tell me how that makes sense.”

Maintaining low utility costs is critical, Richard said, to the state’s future economic development.

“That is one of the assets Missouri has. Regardless of what you think about when you get your energy bill in your mailbox, compared to other states, we are about one of seven or eight states that have reasonably cheap power, and if you don’t think so, go to Illinois, go to Ohio, go to Florida, go to California,” Richard said.

Much of that could change if federal regulators succeed in significantly increasing energy costs to Missouri, Richard said — and he said that problem of federal control is a major part of what’s wrong.

“We want to defend state’s rights every chance we get. We believe the feds ought to send as much power back to us because we’re closer to you,” Richard said. “If you don’t like us you can vote us out, you can take us on a rail, you can tar and feather us like they used to do in the old days here in the south. At least we are accountable to you all.”

Richard noted that with redistricting coming up following the 2010 census, who controls state legislatures will have a major effect on whether the legislators draw districts that favor Republicans or favor Democrats.

“The state of Missouri is in the crossroads of whether we are going to survive as a Republican Party or whether we are going to fade away,” Richard said.

The House is currently closely split between Republicans and Democrats, but Richard said he hopes to see an increase in the Republican margin.

“I think we (Republicans) are going to gain seats because of the job we do and the job that Washington, D.C., has done,” Richard said. “It’s not very tough to figure out what we believe in the Missouri House of Representatives — less government, family, discipline in school … There’s a lot of things coming down from Washington D.C. which scare me … It looks like we’re going to have to work forever to get out of debt.”

After Richard’s speech received loud applause, Rouse said he wants to hear more Republican leaders saying similar things.

“That’s why I’m proud to be a Republican. We have way too many who don’t feel like that and don’t act like that,” Rouse said.

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