By Amy Blouin

The Missouri Budget Project

Missouri’s poverty rate remained high last year, underscoring the need for Missouri to do more to help struggling people succeed and afford basic necessities like decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care and transportation.

According to new Census Bureau data released in mid-September, 15.9 percent of Missourians live in poverty, including more than one in five children and more than one in aa seniors. That’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four.

State funding for public K-12 schools is well below required levels, and lawmakers have made steep cuts to higher education, mental health, and other key services that invest in people’s future, build a strong economy, and provide the foundation of opportunity for all Missourians.

Moreover, income tax cuts passed in the last legislative session will make it increasingly difficult for Missouri to meet even the most basic needs of its residents. Failure to invest in Missourians will hurt our state’s future and make life harder for those who are struggling.

To compete in a global economy, we need to invest in our people and our communities. World-class schools, a reliable infrastructure, and safe communities make it possible for people to move up the economic ladder, helping not just struggling families, but making our economy stronger for all of us.

Unfortunately, cuts to schools have resulted in fewer teachers, and higher education cuts have translated to increased tuition, putting college out of reach for many families. Missouri’s revenue has not kept up with inflation, meaning reduced investments in infrastructure and other critical services.

Missouri cannot cut its way to prosperity. Continuing the status quo and implementing further tax cuts will stifle our economy and weaken our communities. We must begin a real conversation about how to ensure that all Missourians have the opportunity to thrive. We must put Missouri on a better path by creating policies that invest in what matters most – our people.”

Amy Blouin is the executive director of The Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit public policy analysis organization that analyzes state budget, tax, and economic issues.

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