State's Ranking Fails to Impress Some `We're Stingier,' Says Social Welfare Advocate

Article excerpt

Missouri snagged an impressive ranking of third in the country in Financial World magazine's yearly analysis of how governments handle their money. But social welfare advocates are not celebrating.

"All it means is that we're stingier than everyone else," said Peter DeSimone, executive director of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare.

DeSimone was reacting to Missouri's 1995 ranking in the magazine's "state-of-the-states report," which appears in the Sept. 26 issue of Financial World. Missouri was third overall in financial management, managing for results and infrastructure maintenance.

The states were judged on how well they monitor state-run programs and how honestly they assemble their annual budgets. In Missouri's $13 billion budget, "there are no smoke and mirrors as far as we can see," said one of the report's authors, Richard Greene.

"There is an ethos high up in Missouri government that calls for that superior management," he said. Some states routinely underestimate the budget, only to go back for a midyear financial fix later on.

DeSimone said Missouri ranks high in one business-oriented poll because it is tight-fisted with its resources when it comes to such things as welfare payments.

"We haven't given a cost-of-living increase in welfare for over 12 years," DeSimone said. "Our maximum welfare payment is $292 a month for a family of three. That's not enough to pay rent and utilities, let alone eat."

Missouri is 39th in the amount of aid to families with dependent children, behind such neighboring states as Illinois ($367 a month) and Kansas ($403).

But Greene and co-author Katherine Barrett did not hand out rankings based on social policies.

"We are not, in the slightest, as far as rankings, concerned about quality of life or policy," Greene said. …


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