After recent candidate forums, the News Tribune asked those running for state offices some follow-up questions posed by readers.
Here are the responses to some of those questions from the Democratic candidates for the 60th District Missouri House seat, who seek to represent most of Jefferson City.
Responses may have been edited for length and clarity.
In the order they are listed on the ballot, the Democratic candidates are Kevin Nelson and Sara Michael.
From readers Jeanine Kunz and Jeannie McGowan: How do you stand on Prop A, right to work and prevailing wages?
Nelson: I will vote NO on Prop A. The goal of right to work is to attempt to take away your right to collectively bargain. Unions shaped America by making and building a middle class in this country, and I will fight any legislation that tries to take that away from us. I will also fight any legislation that looks to repeal the prevailing wage. Wages have remained stagnant for 40 years while we have seen our levels of production rise higher than ever. We are deserving of seeing the fruits of our labor in the form of higher wages.
Michael: I oppose Proposition A and support Missouri remaining a prevailing wage state. The attacks by special interests on our working families is on clear display with these efforts. It is simply an attempt to weaken our unions, which provide our citizens a voice, training, health insurance and retirement benefits. Maintaining Missouri as a prevailing wage state is almost as imperative as defeating Proposition A. Repealing the prevailing wage will severely undercut and damage Missouri's economy, leading to lost revenue from taxes, lost skilled labor who move out of state, increased cost for projects, delayed projects, and lost income.
From reader Jeannie McGowan: What are your thoughts about the minimum wage?
Nelson: The minimum wage, in the past, was tied to production. That changed in the 1980s when supply-side economics was introduced. Supply-side economics says if money stops going directly to the middle class, (wages) and goes to the top it will create more jobs and trickle down to the middle class. For the first time since WWII, wages were detached from production, causing wages to stagnate for 35 years. Pew research states if wages had kept pace with workers' productivity, it would be $21.72 per hour. Many companies have more cash reserves than some countries. It is time to raise the minimum wage and pay our hard-working families in Missouri a living wage.
Michael: Every day, the Republican-controlled legislature has worked to benefit special interests and big business at the cost of Missouri citizens. Someone working full-time for $7.85 an hour with two children is below the federal poverty level. Until we truly invest in our education system, trade skills and workforce development, we are leaving little options for many. It is no longer just teenagers working minimum wage jobs for extra spending money. People are working hard to support their families and can barely do that without assistance. Raising the minimum wage will allow families to support themselves without state assistance.
From readers Tony and Jenny Smith: If all the recent cuts in state taxes did not provide economic stimulus and were proven to negatively impact services such as public schools, infrastructure, infant mortality rates and Head Start programs, similar to what has happened in Kansas, could you support restoring some of those tax revenues?
Nelson: It has been proven that tax cuts do not create jobs or provide significant economic stimulus. Most of the money from large tax cuts go to stock buy-backs for companies increasing CEO payouts and shareholder dividends. A lot of money goes to Wall Street and very little goes to Main Street. Representatives must look to help improve the lives of citizens and give businesses an environment in which to succeed. We must ensure good public schools, health care and a safe infrastructure do not suffer because of handing out tax cuts. I will support restoring some of these revenue streams.
Michael: Yes, these recent cuts will do exactly what we fear. Missouri's general revenue is like a three-legged stool. Each leg, corporate, sales and personal tax revenue, funds elementary, secondary and higher education, infrastructure and services to the elderly, disabled and those with mental health needs. These legs have to be balanced. When corporate tax revenues are removed, it falls to citizens to make up the difference, putting more burden on our people and communities. Recent corporate tax cuts place us as the second lowest in the nation. We have long been in the bottom 10, and it doesn't seem to have been the enticement for new businesses and jobs that some claim.
From reader Stan Cowen: Forty-one of 50 state Capitol buildings are smoke-free. For a number of years, a handful of Republican legislative leaders have repeatedly refused to expand a smoke-free policy in the Missouri Capitol to include legislators' offices. Would you support a smoke-free policy for the entire Capitol building? Why or why not?
Nelson: As a health professional, I know the problems of secondhand smoke. It can result in negative effects for people who have allergies, asthma and COPD. Non-smoking policies are already in place in public buildings, such as hospitals and state agency office buildings. Legislators should be held to the same standards as other state employees. So, for health reasons and for policy reasons, I would support the Capitol being smoke-free.
Michael: What? The Capitol building is not smoke-free? I didn't even realize that considering the City of Jefferson is smoke-free and has been for some time. I absolutely would support a smoke-free policy for the entire building, as the health of the great people serving as assistants and the people visiting their representatives require it and they should expect nothing less.