(TNS) -- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ state spending plan cuts $17.9 million from a fund that invests in startups and $90 million from Missouri’s colleges and universities. These are perplexing actions from a man who campaigned on a pledge to grow jobs.
Greitens may have pinned his hopes on the right-to-work law that he signed Tuesday, but economic development studies show that one of the most important factors for companies looking to relocate is an educated and trained work force.
Investing in new technology is another option for states without mountains or oceans that want to attract companies offering jobs with a future for younger workers. That was the goal of the Missouri Technology Corp., a public-private partnership that has invested more than $33 million in 97 tech startups since it launched a funding program in 2011. The state’s return on one of those companies, St. Louis-based LockerDome, was twice its investment of $200,000.
Missourians need good, high-paying jobs, which Greitens pledged to deliver during his State of the State address. His plans include passing the right-to-work law barring mandatory union fees and scaling back government regulations.
But the value of those measures as job creators is still being debated. Missouri is one of 28 states with a right-to-work law. A Pew study from October shows other factors do more to create high-paying jobs. The study says employment is rising faster in fields that require more educational and specialized preparation. Employment and wages have increased most in occupations that require higher social or analytical skills, the study says.
In other words, higher-paying jobs are going to where employers have access to a ready, well-trained workforce. The politically motivated right-to-work law doesn’t rank that highly as a factor.
Yet Greitens’ budget plan slices nearly 80 percent in funding for the Missouri Technology Corp., an arm of the state’s Department of Economic Development. The corporation co-invests directly in startups by matching venture capital funds from other investors. It used money from last year’s $18.27 million budget to raise about $142 million in venture capital and create 150 jobs.
Greitens understands the importance of education, having attended Duke University and Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. His toughest task as governor was to trim $146 million from the state’s $27.6 billion budget to balance a revenue shortfall. He suggested that state colleges and universities may not have to raise tuition to cover the $90 million he cut from their budgets.
Greitens suggested they follow Purdue University’s example, cutting “administrative bureaucracy” and costly contracts. Purdue, a state university in Indiana, has kept tuition flat the past five years, partly by reducing spending.
A governor in a state with declining revenue needs to think creatively. It’s essential that the governor not work at cross ends with the workforce he claims to be fighting for.
©2017 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.