1004 library forum

Missouri House and Senate candidates discuss upcoming election topics

Published the night of a public forum, this article summarizes the positions of eight candidates for four state General Assembly seats. Of the many topics discussed this night, three common themes were chosen as the focus of this article.

By Hilary Niles and Raymond Howze: I wrote the lead and summarized the positions for House District 44 and Senate District 19. Raymond and I worked with Emilie Stigliani, our ACE, under the direction of Public Life Editor Scott Swafford to determine the appropriate subheads.  

998 words 

COLUMBIA — Thirteen questions, eight candidates, four districts and about 100 people added up to a revealing night at the Columbia Public Library on Thursday when the League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum.

Six candidates for three seats in the Missouri House sat side by side at the front of the room. They answered questions, most of which came from the audience. The two candidates vying to represent the Senate’s 19th District took questions separately.

Bonnie Friehling said she reads about the candidates in the papers but likes seeing them face to face. Watching the candidates exchange dialogue in person gives her a better sense of why certain candidates appeal to different people.

“I’ve never seen Mary Still and Kurt Schaefer go head-to-head,” she said. “I saw quite a bit of distinction between their outlooks, what kind of people they are and how they approach things.”

Problems and priorities 

House District 44

Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, said economic vitality, including jobs, is the most important issue facing the state, but partisan bickering is hindering progress. Until we overcome that, he said, our economy will struggle.

Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, agreed that politics have become more polarized and that jobs and the economy are the most important part of this election. He said he wants to expand entrepreneurship locally and statewide.

House District 46

Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, said industries such as health care and engineering are “desperate” for jobs, but Missouri doesn’t have enough trained professionals to fill them.

Fred Berry, R-Columbia, said the biggest challenge in the state is jobs. “We need small business start-ups back, and we need to make a positive business climate to get investors to come into the state.”

House District 47

John Wright, D-Columbia, said the city has done well at creating jobs, citing its 5 percent unemployment rate. “We understand something here in mid-Missouri.”

Mitch Richards, R-Columbia, said jobs are a priority in this year’s election, but Missouri residents are overtaxed and micromanaged. “We need to be talking about the fact government doesn’t create jobs, people do.”

Senate District 19

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said her priority would be to implement the Affordable Care Act. “If we don’t take the money that the federal government is going to give to our hospitals, we’re giving it up to other states.”

Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said his biggest priority would be to pass a bonding bill to fund education, mental health programs and roads, including Interstate 70.

Federal health care regulations 

House District 44

Jacob said the benefit of setting up a Missouri health care exchange is so obvious that debating about it is irrational.

Rowden said he is concerned that funding the Affordable Care Act will take money away from education. “As much as we’d like to say we’re entitled to (affordable health care) and government should give it to us, it simply isn’t possible.”

House District 46

Webber said if a health insurance exchange isn’t done through the Affordable Care Act, Missouri should create one itself. “This fight is about whether should we have a website where people can shop around.”

Berry said $50 million does not need to be spent on an insurance plan comparison website. “The federal government doesn’t provide it, the taxpayers of America provide it.”

House District 47

Wright said he has to purchase health care for his employees as a small business owner, but the insurance costs are already high, and they keep rising. “I look forward to the opportunity to look at one site where they have to compete to for my business.”

Richards said he has met many small business owners who say the Affordable Care Act will bankrupt them. “If we expand Medicaid, which is very much the implementation of Obamacare, we’re going to cost this state a lot of money.”

Senate District 19

Still said Missouri should set up its own health care exchange rather than have a federal exchange imposed upon the state. She sees the offer of funding for Medicaid expansion as an economic development tool that Boone County should be clambering to get.

Schaefer said he would prefer a block grant from the federal government for states to administer as they wish. He is concerned about related regulations that haven’t been set yet by the federal government and doesn’t want to fund an expanded Medicaid at the expense of education.

Education

House District 44

Jacob said this community’s economic well-being is inextricably linked to MU. He said higher education funding and capital construction at MU have declined since he left office in 2004.

Rowden said being attractive for business starts with an education system that produces a high-quality workforce.

House District 46

Webber said higher education programs such as the nursing program at MU are limited by the number of students they can accept. “There are industries like health care and engineering where people are desperate to hire qualified individuals.”

Berry said education is one of the pillars needed for a “rock-solid” state. “Missouri can be on top again through right-to-work, tax reform and smart planning in the legislature.”

House District 47

Wright said that Missouri’s lack of education investment puts pressure on many of the state’s school districts. “We have fallen to 46th in the country in state investments in education.”

Richards said the election is “absolutely about jobs,” but disagreed with the assertion that job creation falls on education funding. “The fact is we need to not look at spending more money but how we’re spending that money.”

Senate District 19

Still supports the fall ballot’s cigarette tax to help fund education. She added it’s important to have a local person appointed to the MU Board of Curators and criticized Schaefer for not making that happen.

Schaefer takes credit for restoring Gov. Nixon’s $106-million cut to the university in the last budget and providing increased funding to public schools. “Education must be our No. 1 priority after public debt.”

 

Draft 1

Thirteen questions, eight candidates, four districts and about 100 people added up to a revealing night at the library Thursday, when the League of Women Voters hosted a candidate forum.

Six candidates for three seats in the Missouri House took questions together. Candidates running against each other sat side-by-side at the front of the room to answer questions, most of which came from the audience. The two candidates vying to represent the Senate’s 19th District took questions separately.

Bonnie Friehling said she reads about the candidates in the papers, but likes seeing them face-to-face in a forum like this. Watching the candidates exchange dialogue in person gives her a better sense of the reasons each one would appeal to different people, she said.

“I’ve never seen Mary Still and Kurt Schaefer go head-to-head,” she said. “I saw quite a bit of distinction between their outlooks, what kind of people they are, and how they approach things.”

A second forum for the Boone County Northern and Southern District Commissioners and Public Administrator will take place Oct. 9, also at the library. The event starts at 6:00 p.m. with refreshments, and the forum starts at 6:30 p.m.

PRIORITIES

House District 44

Jacob said economic vitality, including jobs, is the most important issue facing the state, but partisan bickering is hindering progress. “Until we overcome that, our economy will struggle,” he said.

Rowden agreed that politics have become more polarized, and that jobs and the economy are the most import part of this election. He said he wants to expand entrepreneurship in locally and statewide.

Senate District 19

Still said her priority would be to implement the Affordable Care Act. “Maybe you don’t agree with it, but if we don’t take the money that the federal government is going to give to our hospitals, we’re giving it up to other states,” she said.

Schaefer said his biggest priority would be to pass a bonding bill with two goals: definitely funding education and mental health programs, and most likely funding road upkeep, including I-70.

HEALTHCARE

House District 44

Jacob said the benefit of setting up a Missouri healthcare exchange is so obvious that debating about it is irrational.

Rowden said he is concerned that funding the Affordable Care Act will take money away from education. “As much as we’d like to say we’re entitled to it and government should give it to us, it simply isn’t possible,” he said.

Senate District 19 

Still wants Missouri to set up its own health care exchange rather than have a federal exchange imposed upon the state, and she sees the offer of funding for Medicaid expansion as an economic development tool that Boone County should be clambering to get.

Schaefer is concerned about potential Medicaid expansion, and said he would prefer a block grant from the federal government for states to administer as they wish. He is concerned about related regulations that haven’t been set yet by the federal government, and doesn’t want to fund Medicaid at the expense of education.

I-70

Jacob said, “There’s a lot of talk about what we should do, but I think we should fix it, and with bonds.” He suggested allowing localities to contract bonds for longer than a 20-year period to lower their burden of repayment.

Rowden said he was surprised how much support he found on his Facebook page for instituting tolls, but that a bond issuance may be the answer. “We have to look at all these options. We need to get in front of it,” he said.

(This topic did not come up in the Still-Schaefer portion of the forum.)

ONLINE SALES TAX

Still said she supports signing an interstate compact to implement an online sales tax and designate the new revenues from it to fund education. “It helps state revenue and local businesses,” she said.

Schaefer said he didn’t think an online sales tax would happen until the federal government makes such a tax uniform across the country. “You can’t have Balkanization of internet sales tax,” he said.

(This topic did not come up in the Jacob-Rowden portion of the forum.)

EDUCATION

House District 44

Jacob said this community’s economic well-being is inextricably linked to the University of Missouri. He said higher education funding and capital construction at MU have declined since he left office in 2004.

Rowden said being attractive for business starts with an education system that puts out a high-quality workforce.

Senate District 19

Still supports the fall ballot’s cigarette tax to help fund education. She said it’s important to have a local person appointed to the MU Board of Curators and criticized Schaefer for not making that happen.

Schaefer takes credit for restoring Gov. Nixon’s $106 million cut to the university in the last budget and providing increased funding to public schools. “Education must be our Number 1 priority after public debt. Fund it first and fund it fully,” he said.

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.