Anybody for more term limits in Missouri?
Term limits already are here, there and everywhere in the state Capitol. But now, lawmakers from both parties are looking to finish the job and apply such rules to the only four statewide offices that lack them: lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and secretary of state.
This is hardly a red-hot issue. But Gov. Eric Greitens has proposed the idea, and members of both parties have said they’d back him.
We aren’t convinced there’s a need for this new round of term limits because the state hasn’t experienced problems with officials in these jobs sticking around so long that they prove ineffective.
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But this makes it exactly the right time to revisit a related issue, and that’s the eight-year term limits that apply to members of the state House and Senate. Those limits have turned the Capitol into a circus of unbridled ambition.
With just an eight-year window, some lawmakers are looking for their next political job within hours — no, make that minutes — of taking office. They’ve got to move quickly if they want to ascend in leadership in their respective chambers or position themselves to take a shot at statewide office.
The result is often a frenzy of fundraising — and who knows what promises are made to extract that cash — and bill introductions that fuel ambition in the short term but ignore the real-world impact that legislation might have on the state five or 10 years down the road.
The easy case in point here is the decision to slash corporate and personal income taxes at a time when revenue growth in Missouri has consistently fallen short. Greitens already is making cuts to vital programs.
Lawmakers need a longer-term perspective, and they need to know they might still be in office when the effects of the decisions they make today actually take hold.
That’s why we back proposals that would push the maximum tenure to 12 years. That will create a cadre of more experienced lawmakers. It will lessen the influence of lobbyists, who are the ones with the institutional knowledge these days, and it will ease the frantic rush to climb the next rung on the political ladder.
Term limits clearly have both pluses and minuses. They are an imperfect solution, but a need remains because of the state’s recent history.
In the late 1980s, more than a handful of lawmakers in Jefferson City had served for 20, 30 or even 40 years. Many of them were terrific legislators. But that’s simply too long.
A regular rotation of fresh thinking is a necessity in these fast-evolving times.