Missouri voters approve Medicaid expansion
By SHERI GASSAWAY
The Missouri primary election Aug. 4 was largely upbeat for Labor-endorsed candidates and propositions.
St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page, a strong supporter of Organized Labor, won the Democratic nomination for St. Louis County executive with 38 percent of the vote in a four-way race for the seat.
Endorsed by Labor, Page was chosen by the County Council to replace former executive Steve Stenger following his resignation amid corruption charges. He has proven to be a stalwart ally of Labor and working families.
Page signed a prevailing wage ordinance last fall to ensure St. Louis firms and workers have a fair shot at winning St. Louis County construction work. The ordinance requires payment of prevailing wages on all projects using county tax incentives, and created by executive order the position of Prevailing Wage Enforcement Coordinator to ensure compliance with the county’s prevailing wage laws and consistent enforcement across county government.
In January, Page announced a process to increase wages for the county’s lowest-wage workers by implementing a new minimum wage for all non-seasonal, full-time employees and contracted employees to at least $13-an-hour with yearly increases gradually raising the minimum wage for county employees to $15 by 2022.
Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, said while there were some ups and downs in the primary election, Labor won at the end of the day.
“We did win, in my opinion, the biggest race of the day and that was the St. Louis County executive race,” he said. “Labor can still flex its muscle at the ballot box, and I thank each and every union member for doing their civic duty by getting to the polls regardless of where you live. It’s still one place where we have a strong voice!”
Page will face off against Republican Paul Berry, III in November. He is the clear front-runner in heavily Democratic St. Louis County.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY COUNCIL RACES
Labor-endorsed Kelli Dunaway, a key Page ally on the County Council, cruised to an easy victory in the Democratic primary for the Council’s 2nd District. Dunaway was first elected to the Council last year to finish the last year of Page’s term after the County Council selected him to become county executive following the resignation of Steve Stenger. She has served as chairwoman of the committee providing oversight on the county’s spending of $173.5 million in coronavirus relief funds.
Dunaway will face Republican Jerry Bowen and Libertarian Arnold Trembley in November.
In north St. Louis County’s 4th District, incumbent Democrat Rochelle Walton Gray lost her bid to Shalonda Webb, a software manager for Boeing. She will face Republican Curtis Faulkner of and Libertarian Eric S. Harris in November.
In the 6th District, veteran legislator and friend of Labor Bob Burns defeated Venki Palamand and UFCW Local 655’s Alex Lange for the Democratic nomination. He will face Republican incumbent Ernie Trakas in November.
Backed by a coalition of Labor, business, frontline healthcare workers, faith leaders and civil rights organizations, Medicaid expansion (Amendment 2) was passed by Missouri voters, making Missouri the 38th state to expand the much-needed healthcare coverage to individuals who earn less than $18,000 a year.
The amendment’s passage will help provide healthcare to about 230,000 hardworking Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance. The measure passed with 53.25 percent of the vote.
It’s passage will bring more than $1 billion of taxes Missouri residents are already paying home from Washington, rather than leaving it to be distributed to states like California, Arkansas, Indiana and New York that have already expanded Medicaid coverage.
Ninety percent of the costs of expansion will be paid by the Federal government, bringing millions of Missouri tax dollars back to the state. The 10 percent of costs that will be paid by the state will be more than offset by savings in existing state health care costs.
Researchers at Washington University found expanding Medicaid will save Missouri up to $1 billion annually, protect frontline healthcare jobs, help keep endangered rural hospitals open, ensure all Missourians have access to emergency care, and create on average more than 16,000 jobs annually in the program’s first five years, including jobs in the construction industry.