Our Opinion: Barnes accepts challenging assignment

A state representative from Jefferson City has adopted a sound approach to a new responsibility.

Republican Jay Barnes has been named chairman of a special Interim Committee on Government Oversight and Accountability.

The appointment was made by House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, who charged the panel with investigating waste, fraud and abuse in state government, beginning with a probe of troubled Mamtek.

Barnes said Thursday he wants the investigation to go “where the facts lead us.”

We agree with and encourage this objective approach.

The Mamtek facts lead to Gov. Jay Nixon, who announced the economic initiative about a year ago.

Some Republicans — those of the partisan persuasion — are positively salivating at the prospect of damaging the Democratic governor.

The first order of business, however, is an analysis of the facts.

By way of background, Mamtek received government assistance to build an artificial sweetener operation in Moberly but has not yet completed construction or started operations.

Mamtek’s aid includes $17 million in state tax credits, job training assistance and a community development block grant, as well as more than $35 million in local bonds. The project also called for $8 million from private investors.

In exchange for the public aid, Mamtek pledged, within two years, to create 312 new jobs at the plant, with an average starting salary of $35,000.

The company, however, failed to make a Sept. 1 municipal bond payment, signaling problems in fulfilling its obligations to state and local governments.

A thorough accounting is necessary, and we appreciate Barnes’ intention to gather facts, rather than engage in speculation.

“I don’t want to suggest something today without knowing the complete facts on Mamtek and other tax credits,” Barnes said.

Barnes has accepted a challenging assignment in his freshman year as a lawmaker. His approach indicates he is off to a good start.


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