Lawyer, businessman seek to fill open House seat for 113th District

A lawyer and a longtime businessman want voters to send them to the Capitol, after Missouri’s eight-year term limits ended Republican Mark Bruns’ service in the state House of Representatives.

And both Democrat Cyrus Dashtaki and Republican Mike Bernskoetter want to work on fixing Missouri’s budget problems and the local economy.

Read the full article in our newspaper or e-Edition for Friday, Oct. 29, 2010.

Democratic candidate Cyrus (Cy) Dashtaki

1) Why are you running for this office, and why do you think you’re the best qualified candidate?

I am running for State Representative in House District 113 because Cole County is at a crossroads.

We have had some real challenges, but I see the incredible opportunities ahead.

Lack of high-paying jobs and stalled progress on long-term infrastructure projects have lead our younger generations and working families to uproot and leave Jefferson City and Cole County at alarming rates.

I truly believe that brighter days for Cole County are ahead of us. Working together, we can continue to build up our community and inspire the next generation to call Cole County home.

Together, we can create a vibrant community to attract new business and industries.

With the right leadership and vision we can move Cole County forward.

I am a former state prosecutor who fought for working families and stood up to powerful special interests.

I know what it takes to bring people together, deliver real results and get the job done.

2) What do you think the biggest issue(s) will be if you’re elected and what solutions do you have, if any, for solving that/those issue(s)??

Although there are many issues that our state and Cole County are facing, the biggest issues by far are job growth and the needs of state employees. High-Paying Job Growth and Sustainable Economic Development.

It is time to engage job creation and job growth. We must keep our highly skilled workforce intact.

Cole County needs new economic approaches that create and maintain high-paying jobs, tap into our unrivaled, existing assets and diversifies our regional economy.

A big part of our focus should be on building human capital by inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs and homegrown small business start-ups.

Laying the groundwork for real economic growth in Cole County begins by boosting investment in long-term infrastructure to retain and attract the most highly skilled, creative, educated, and innovative workforce to Cole County.

For far too long we’ve been building roads out of our community. It’s time to start building roads into Cole County. We must invest in infrastructure projects that work for Cole County like the historic Missouri State Penitentiary and Callaway II and small business and start-up incubators.

The expansion of regional research collaboration with private enterprise, our universities and trade schools in high-technology industries are vital to our economic recovery.

Missouri, especially Cole County, should not be just a place to do business, but a place where it’s an advantage to do business.

Solutions: Missouri needs a comprehensive job creation and economic development bill that gets Missourians back to work.

The bill will take a bipartisan effort to accomplish.

Politics as usual put up roadblocks and brought previous efforts to a screeching halt.

Politics has no place in this discussion when our state is facing 9.3% unemployment and our small businesses and industries are closing their doors. It’s time for action.

We can revitalize our local economy by focusing on programs that work to create jobs and inspire businesses to take root in Missouri.

A comprehensive review of Missouri’s annual $500 million dollar tax credit system is crucial to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being utilized properly and administered wisely.

First, we should cut tax credit programs that do not create jobs and work for Missouri.

Second, the legislature needs to pass legislation like the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act (MOSIRA), an innovative program that would create high-paying, high-technology private sector jobs and make Missouri competitive.

Third, Missouri must expand workplace development programs for displaced workers. With 9.3% reported unemployment and many, many more highly-skilled workers unable to find work in Mid-Missouri, we must utilize our trade schools to retrain our workforce for energy-efficient green construction, high-technology industries and advanced manufacturing.

Fourth, Missouri needs to support existing small businesses and start-ups. This can be accomplished by expanding the Missouri Linked Deposit Program (MLDP), which provides small- to medium-sized businesses access to low-interest loans so they can expand, invest and create jobs.

Our legislature has an obligation to facilitate private enterprise so it can flourish.

Innovative legislation like MOSIRA, MLDP, workplace development and tax credits are necessary to foster development and growth, especially in high-technology industries like plant science, advanced manufacturing and better medicine.

Standing Up for State Workers.

State employees and retirees are the economic driving force in Mid-Missouri and the largest employer in Cole County. Many of our family members, friends and neighbors are state workers.

Over the last decade, the treatment of Missouri state employees has been abysmal. As a result, Missouri state workers have received a title that nobody wants — lowest paid state employees in the country.

Because Mid-Missouri’s economy is directly related to the economic well-being of state employees, our small businesses in Cole County feel the effects of the lowest paid state employees in the nation.

That’s why it is so important that Missouri start treating our state employees as an asset, and not a liability as a part of the plan to regenerate our local economy.

Solutions: State workers want a fair shake and that means fair wages and benefits. Our state workers are overworked and underpaid and the constant threat of outsourcing and layoffs hurts employee morale.

Instead of thinking outside the box, last year the Missouri legislature balanced next year’s budget on the backs of future state employees while carving out the special exception for themselves.

The inequitable and unfair treatment of state workers can be resolved if Mid-Missouri legislators join together to protect existing and future state employees from out-state legislators who, every year, champion a further reduction in state workers — the economic driving force in Mid-Missouri.

3) Many people expect the budget to be the biggest issue next session, because of another shortfall between anticipated revenues and likely expenses. How would you propose to balance the state budget???

Missouri needs to reduce spending.

Period.

Missouri can start the process with comprehensive tax credit reform. The Missouri legislature gave out $500 million dollars in tax credits last year. We must cut specific tax credits that do not create jobs and work for Missouri.

Last year the Missouri legislature sent a “balanced” budget to the Governor that was $300 million dollars in the red.

In addition to an economic development bill, I will file a bill that requires the legislature to have a truly balanced budget on the Governor’s desk.

If the budget sent to the Governor by the legislature is not truly balanced, then legislators would not receive a paycheck or per diem for each day the budget is not truly balanced.

It’s time for the Missouri legislature to stand up and find solutions that make Missouri a better place to live, work and prosper.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The state Constitution currently requires only that the budget be balanced at the end of the state’s business year, giving the governor the power to withhold or limit expenditures to keep the state’s budget within actual revenues.)

4) To balance previous budgets, some program cuts already have been made. What areas do you think were cut too much, and would you seek to restore those cuts?????

Health and Senior Services, Disabled services: Recent cuts to public health, senior services and disabled services have caused a reduction in state inspectors in nursing homes, funding for public health and in-home provider services that serve the mentally ill and the disabled. These cuts have decreased the quality of life for our most vulnerable citizens.

Yes, I will seek to restore these cuts.

As a practicing Catholic, we must protect the most vulnerable from abuse and neglect and ease human suffering. I will work with other legislators that seek to restore these cuts and protect the most vulnerable citizens in Missouri-our elderly in nursing homes and individuals with disabilities.

Education: The cuts to college scholarship money, busing aid to rural school districts and the highly successful Parents as Teachers program have taken a toll on our schools and are detrimental to Missouri’s ability to create a talented, educated workforce for the jobs of tomorrow.

Yes, I will seek to restore these cuts. Education is the key to opening the door to opportunity and is, dollar-for-dollar, the best investment Missouri can make for the future.

What areas do you think should have been cut more, and would you seek to get those additional cuts?????

Tax Credit Reform: Missouri needs comprehensive tax credit reform.

The Missouri legislature doled out $500 million dollars in tax credits last year. We must cut tax credits that do not create jobs and work for Missouri.

Yes, I would seek to cut tax credit programs that do not create jobs and work for Missouri.

The recent tax credit commission that was set up to review Missouri’s tax credit system is long overdue and a positive step in the right direction to hold government accountable to taxpayers.

Revenue Neutral Requirement: All new spending bills must be revenue neutral. Any legislator that sponsors a bill that would cost taxpayers additional money would be required to find an existing source within the budget to fund the new policies.

Yes, I would seek to sponsor a bill that would include a revenue neutral requirement.

Reducing spending is necessary to ensure Missouri is able to weather the current economic crisis and remain competitive in the future.

Any new spending measures sponsored by the legislature that are estimated to add revenue must be offset by other sources estimated to reduce revenue.

5) Of course, Missouri’s Constitution requires the state to provide at least 25 percent of its budget for public schools at the elementary and secondary levels. Do you think the state is meeting that obligation????

No, in the last session, the legislature flat-funded the school foundation formula and short-changed our schools to the detriment of current and future generations.

Missouri ranks 47th in the country in funding higher education.

Cole County ranks 90th out of 114 Missouri counties for high school dropouts.

Sixty-four percent of our fourth graders cannot read at a fourth grade level.

These statistics are unacceptable.

Education is the essential ingredient to moving Missouri forward and an essential component to high-paying job growth and retaining and attracting next generation industries and technologies.

Our schools need a firm commitment from the Missouri legislature that the education of our children comes first.

Our students deserve access to the very best resources and educational opportunities available.

Our teachers need the Missouri legislature to treat them with respect and dignity because they guide and shape the minds of our children.

If Missouri is to remain competitive, both nationally and globally, investment in education must be a priority.

What changes, if any, should be made to education funding and why?

Missouri must fully fund the school foundation formula.

If our ultimate goal is to maintain, attract and expand high-technology industries, advanced manufacturing and plant science research facilities in Missouri, and especially Cole County, we must invest in education.

Restoration of funding to Parents as Teachers is vital to ensure the basic building blocks of education are a foundation to a lifetime of learning. We must ensure that the essential components to our education policies work to attract and keep our best teachers, maintain small class sizes, increase digital literacy and preserve local control of our school districts.

In addition, access to affordable universities, colleges and trade schools is crucial to ensure we have a talented, educated workforce to fill the jobs of tomorrow.

6) Although it has shrunk a little in recent years, many Missourians think state government is too big, with too many duties, employees and expenses. Do you agree, and how would you reshape government to improve it????

Just like hardworking Missouri families have learned during these lean economic times, state government must tighten its belt and limit spending to necessities.

Missouri’s billion dollar budget shortfall demands legislators put aside political rhetoric, go to the table and ask hard questions.

Instead of talking points and fingerpointing during tough economic times, we must spend less and target better.

We must hold the line on taxes to ensure that government can continue to serve all Missourians more efficiently and effectively while aggressively working to find common sense solutions to cut waste and streamline government.

Increasing efficiency in government begins with demanding transparency, responsibility and accountability in all areas of state government.

As your state representative, I will instill fiscal discipline and responsibility to the Missouri budget process.

I will demand that state government live within its means just like Missouri families are already doing.

One of my first goals will be to propose an Innovation Commission. The Innovation Commission will be comprised of state employees, state retirees and citizens of Missouri, not politicians.

The goal of the Innovation Commission is to save tax dollars by focusing on new technologies to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies among state agencies.

7) What do you think state government’s role really is, and how would you change current operations to achieve your views??????

State government’s role is to protect the individual rights and freedoms of its citizens that are guaranteed by the Missouri and United States Constitutions, facilitate the growth of private enterprise, level the playing field, ensure that education is a top priority, build and maintain roads and infrastructure, offer security and safety to our citizens and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Missouri needs to focus on priorities. Focusing on priorities like infrastructure, education and its people.

These essential elements will lay the groundwork to achieve prosperity and success for current and future generations.

While the Missouri legislature passed countless non-binding resolutions, they failed to pass a comprehensive job growth and economic development bill and meaningful ethics reform bill during the worst fiscal crisis Missouri has seen since the Great Depression.

It’s time for action and substance, not politics.

8) Why should voters agree with the changes you would support?

For far too long, Cole County has sat on the sidelines, watching and waiting for action and economic progress and our local and regional economy remained stagnant.

We have lost countless jobs and industries, small businesses have closed their doors, our educational system is struggling and our young people are leaving Cole County.

We cannot afford to wait any longer.

High-paying job creation and a stronger economy, standing up for the economic driving force in Mid-Missouri-our state workers, focusing on the dollar-for-dollar best investment in the future — our children’s education, and the realization that Missouri needs comprehensive reform and accountability to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely are all within reach if we elect candidates that understand both the challenges and opportunities facing Missouri, especially Cole County.

9) What else should lawmakers do this next session?

Lawmakers must enact economic policies that enable job creation and sustainable economic development.

Missouri lawmakers must put aside the political rhetoric and partisan bickering, ask the tough questions and work together so Missouri can remain competitive, both nationally and globally.

Legislators must come together and pass a comprehensive jobs and economic growth bill that enables small business start-ups and high-tech industries.

Legislators must spend less on programs that do not work and invest more in programs that actually facilitate job growth.

Legislators must fully fund the school foundation formula to ensure Missouri has a competitive workforce.

Finally, legislators must pass a meaningful ethics reform bill that begins the process to restore the public’s faith and trust in government.

10) What do you think people most misunderstand about this office and what it does?

Ninety-nine percent of people understand that their state representative is there to represent the people of their district, listen to their concerns, vote on matters that best suit the needs of the people, and serve them, e.g., help senior citizens navigate senior services, deal with licensing and consumer protection issues, assist with homeowner and disabled tax relief programs and other constituent services.

11) Why should voters pay attention to the endorsements given to any candidate?

Endorsements provide a voice of confidence and the ability to run a competitive race.

The most important endorsement I receive is the commitment from a voter.

The voters are the ones who truly believe in what I stand for and have chosen to stand with me as we give it our all to get Cole County back to work and moving forward.

12) If voters remember only one thing before they vote Nov. 2, what do you want it to be???

If voters remember only one thing before November 2nd, I would like them to remember that I personally knocked on their door, stood on their front porch, introduced myself to them and their family, shook their hand, looked them in the eye, listened to the issues that mattered most to them and shared with them my plan to get Cole County working again.

Republican candidate Mike Bernskoetter, age 50

1) Why are you running for this office, and why do you think you’re the best qualified candidate?

I am running for office for a number of reasons.

First, because I have been exceedingly blessed by this community and it would be my great honor to serve the district in this capacity.

I am best qualified because I have a good understanding of the values and the priorities of the people in this area because I have been here my whole life.

Also, as a small business owner I have a background of balancing budgets and making ends meet during hard times.

Our state is looking at some very hard times and I know that I can provide leadership and direction to move our state past this downturn.

Between my business background, my service to the community and my life experiences it is clear there is no one better qualified to serve the people of the 113th district.

2) What do you think the biggest issue(s) will be if you’re elected and what solutions do you have, if any, for solving that/those issue(s)?

The biggest issue for next year and for years to come is turning our economy around — Which leads to the second biggest issue, which is budget shortfalls.

The two issues go hand in hand.

We simply can’t tax our way of this problem because that will lead to a loss of jobs which creates the cycle over again.

We need to stop trying so hard to lure the latest and greatest big company into the state with give-aways.

That hasn’t gotten us anywhere and doesn’t address our real need to grow small business.

We all need to recognize that government does not create lasting jobs but rather creates the environment whereby private industry can create lasting jobs.

I think the best approach is to lower taxes and make sure that we have education programs that are training workers with the skills of the future so they can create their own small business.

Emphasis on obtaining a college degree is important but we must all realize that college isn’t the best choice for every individual and we must provide job training for those people who want to be plumbers, electricians and mechanics, etc.

When you unlock the power of the individual you create real opportunities for growth and that growth will in turn lead to higher revenues for the state.

3) Many people expect the budget to be the biggest issue next session, because of another shortfall between anticipated revenues and likely expenses. How would you propose to balance the state budget?

First, we have to be realistic.

Missouri is facing what some analysts believe could be as much as a billion dollar deficit.

That means that we are going to have to cut spending that in other years I would advocate we keep.

Simply put, everything must be on the table and I will look at what will have the least impact to the residents of the 113th district.

State employees are the life blood of our local economy and as a small business owner nobody understands that more than me.

Each department in state government will need to take a wholesale review of each program it offers to the public.

Only the best will remain.

That process is already in motion.

For the FY2012 budget to balance there will likely need to be a reduction in the higher education transfer from General Revenue.

Higher education is important but elementary and secondary education should not suffer at the expense of large schools that can charge tuition from students and pay for charge admission for massive athletic programs.

All elected officials should take budget cuts as well.

Consolidation of state offices to Jefferson City from regional offices will save money.

Selling unused state property to the highest bidder will also help.

Another way to save money would be to cut the number of legislators and reduce the number of days the legislature is in session.

If we are asking our state workers to do more with less why wouldn’t the same rules apply to legislators?

There must also be reform to social service programs that are out of reach.

Lastly, no more debt should be issued.

Governor Nixon has proposed spending our way to prosperity with a debt plan.

The state simply doesn’t have the money for the big spending debt plan to work.


4) To balance previous budgets, some program cuts already have been made. What areas do you think were cut too much, and would you seek to restore those cuts?

Mental Health spending for the mentally ill was cut too much. Staff cuts were high but the actual savings from the reduction in employees proved to be minor.

It is odd to realize that Missouri can’t spend money on healthcare or retirement for its employees but somehow the Governor found a way to give Ford Motor Company a $15 million tax credit, when the same company just closed a plant in Fenton after similar incentives were given to the company.

Many cuts to elementary and secondary education were made via withholdings by the Governor. Cuts to elementary and secondary education should be restored.

What areas do you think should have been cut more, and would you seek to get those additional cuts?

Over one-third of our $22billion state budget goes toward social service programs. While well-intentioned, they are very costly.

Almost $150 million each year is spent on healthcare for inmates.

While they should be taken care of while wards of the state, it doesn’t stand to reason that inmates would receive better healthcare than state employees.

5) Of course, Missouri’s Constitution requires the state to provide at least 25 percent of its budget for public schools at the elementary and secondary levels. Do you think the state is meeting that obligation?

Yes, when referring to General Revenue transfers only.

Most cuts to elementary and secondary education occurred via withholds from the Governor after the budgets were passed by the legislature.

What changes, if any, should be made to education funding - and why?

The process must be simplified while allowing for a return of tax payer dollars to the district.

6) Although it has shrunk a little in recent years, many Missourians think state government is too big, with too many duties, employees and expenses. Do you agree, and how would you reshape government to improve it?

State employees work hard. One can’t blame state employees as the “problem” for doing the job they applied to work for each day.

State employees work for less wages than many of their private industry counterparts and, in exchange, were promised good benefits and a retirement income.

Even that is changing.

Generally there are ways to reduce expenditures without reducing employees.

Even though there are approximately 60,000 state employees, the cost of their salaries is the lowest cost of all government expenses.

Balancing the budget cannot be done by simply firing all state employees. For instance, there are 13,000 (+/-) corrections employees; should we simply fire them and let all prisoners go?

NO!

Resolutions to solve the expanse of government begin with the legislature on programs that provide no services to the citizens.

I am committed to reducing the burden of government on businesses and citizens in Missouri and I look forward to the opportunity to do that soon.

7) What do you think state government’s role really is, and how would you change current operations to achieve your views?

Missouri government’s role fundamentally is to provide an environment where rights of the individual are recognized, established and protected at the cost of all else.

Missouri government seems to be doing a better job these days at handing out favors and appeasing special interests.

I would focus on the fundamental roles of government to create a positive environment for business to succeed without constant intervention by the state and to put all businesses on the same footing by reducing the overall tax burden of businesses while reducing the dependence on tax credits.

8) Why should voters agree with the changes you would support?

Reducing government taxation and dependence will benefit all businesses and provide for more opportunity for employment.

9) What else should lawmakers do this next session?

I think every year we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect the lives of the unborn and to listen to new ideas to grow the economy.

We need to thoroughly review our tax credit program to find ones that are not working and cut them from the statutes.

We should look for ways to promote a business friendly state without costing the state millions per job created.

We should find answers to why Missouri healthcare costs rise each year despite significant government intrusion in an attempt to force costs lower.

We should find and eliminate wasteful spending.

We should come up with a 10-year plan for schools and those dependent upon Missouri funding so that they can expect funding at a consistent level and then Missouri should stick to the plan.

No new spending should be proposed next year and no new taxes should be proposed.

Lastly, we must pass legislation to force the transfer of the prison property out from the state and into the hands of businesses who will develop it to its fullest potential.

10) What do you think people most misunderstand about this office and what it does?

I think most people don’t realize that the legislators in the Missouri General Assembly really are citizen legislators, because we have a part time legislature.

11) Why should voters pay attention to the endorsements given to any candidate?

Endorsements say a lot about who a candidate aligns himself with.

I am very proud of the endorsements I have received and I think they say very clearly that I will fight for the unborn (Missouri Right to Life & Missourians United for Life); work to create an environment for growth of small businesses (National Federation of Independent Businesses, Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Associated Industries of Missouri); and protect our rights to keep and bear arms (National Rifle Association).

I have also received the endorsement of the Jefferson City Board of Realtors and the National Pest Management Association.

12) If voters remember only one thing before they vote Nov. 2, what do you want it to be?

I have lived in this district my whole life.

I know what the folks around here value and I understand what it means have a business in this community.

My running for an elected office is not about starting a political legacy or running for another higher office.

To me, it is about paying back everything that this community has done for me and my family by serving as their voice in the legislature.

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