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 Republican 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 GOP candidates are Jane Beetem, Pat Rowe Kerr and Dave Griffith.
From readers Jeanine Kunz and Jeannie McGowan: How do you stand on Prop A, right to work and prevailing wages?
Beetem: If the voters in District 60 vote against right to work, I'll support their decision. Otherwise, I will go with my natural inclination in favor of right to work. Prevailing wages may work well on large, statewide projects such as roads. But for smaller, community-based projects, they just increase the cost to local taxpayers. Recently, on a project in the Old City Cemetery, I received a bid of $5,000. When Jefferson City bid the project, their lowest bid was $12,500 — over twice what the project cost once we worked out an agreement to manage the project for them.
Kerr: I plan to vote yes on Proposition A, the right-to-work proposition, because I believe it will help our economy and I think it is common sense to let every worker make their own decision about whether or not they want to join a union. I also support ending the prevailing wage requirement for taxpayer-funded projects, as it artificially drives up prices and costs taxpayers more money.
Griffith: I am in favor of right to work and see this as a freedom issue which will give employees the choice of belonging to a union or not. As far as prevailing wages, I am willing to have a conversation about reforming the prevailing wage to help save taxpayers money.
From reader Jeannie McGowan: What are your thoughts about the minimum wage?
Beetem: Minimum wage started in 1938, at $.25 per hour, raised 22 times to the current $7.25 per hour. I agree this amount is not sufficient in most places to cover minimum living expenses, much less health care. The market has recognized this, and to attract employees many businesses are offering more than minimum wage. By shifting workers to part-time work, businesses avoid paying health insurance. Even at a higher wage, without full-time work, employees have difficulty paying their living expenses. My priority is to help employees obtain the skills needed to qualify for higher paying, full-time jobs that businesses have difficulty filling.
Kerr: It is not the government's job to tell the private sector what to do. I will not support a legislated increase to the minimum wage. A higher minimum wage hurts the economy by artificially raising labor costs for employers, discouraging job creation and slowing new development. It also hurts consumers. Any time wages are raised, prices are raised by a commensurate amount. As a former business owner with offices in multiple cities, we regularly provided incentivized pay increases for our employees. The employees produced more product recognizing their value was appreciated and therefore their salaries were increased.
Griffith: I believe that minimum wage jobs are meant to develop experience and not meant to be a long-term wage for the worker. The marketplace drives the economy as well as the wage structure and in many cases, employers are paying their entry-level workers at a higher rate in order to attract a qualified workforce. Review of the minimum wage from time to time is and has been the correct course of action.
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?
Beetem: Nobody likes to pay taxes. But they are necessary to fund government services we depend upon. General Revenue increased in Fiscal Year 2017 by 2.5 percent, and FY2018 showed a 5 percent increase. I am a cautious spender, preferring to reduce spending as opposed to increasing taxes. Missouri should explore placing photographs of people on their SNAP (formerly food stamps) cards. We should reduce inappropriate use of SNAP benefits through stolen cards and use by people outside the state. Until opportunities for savings have been fully explored, revenues show signs of decline, and a negative impact to services is evident, I would not consider any tax increases.
Kerr: Tax cuts will help our economy. Missouri took responsible approaches to cuts and avoided mistakes Kansas lawmakers, who refused to cut waste as part of their tax reform package, made. I proudly signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and will never support any tax increase. I will diligently review the budget to identify and eliminate any waste, fraud and abuse. We have recently shown significant areas of waste, fraud and abuse in three of the 16 state agencies. With a $29 billion budget, I will use my experience and budget knowledge to ferret out additional ways to find resources to create and support programs.
Griffith: With the tax cuts, we have seen more money going into the pockets of workers which in turn will stimulate the economy on a local and state level. Putting more into workers' paychecks has made a difference in their lives, and I believe this will continue. Many local businesses have already seen an impact for their employees and to be clear, Missouri's plan is a great deal different than Kansas.' Through collaboration, the Legislature passed it overwhelmingly.
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?
Beetem: As a government building that is not only open to the public, but one which draws people to our community as tourists, I believe the Missouri State Capitol should be smoke-free. Fortunately for me, I never worked for the state before their offices were smoke-free. But for so many people with asthma, allergies, sensitivities to smells and other breathing difficulties, working in a smoke-filled environment must have been trying. As has been established for other state office buildings, an area outside the Capitol can be designated for use by smokers.
Kerr: Personally neither I nor my husband smoke, and the Legislature has more pressing issues to attend to, like lowering taxes; reducing regulations; and analyzing the myriad divisions', commissions', and departments' budgets of the 16 state agencies to ferret out waste, fraud and abuse. We need to spend our time on creating strategic plans that impact the lives of the people we represent. Spending valuable legislative floor time debating the issue appears to be an abuse of legislative authority and a waste of time when we could be considering questions that affect the lives of Missourians.
Griffith: Many communities across the state have made the decision to make their cities smoke-free and found many benefits from it; however, I believe that is a decision each community makes and the Capitol should be no different.