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House District 50 candidates talk education, infrastructure

House District 50 candidates talk education, infrastructure

October 31st, 2018 by Danisha Hogue in Local News

Both candidates seeking the Missouri House District 50 seat say infrastructure is a large issue for rural community members, but they are on opposing sides of the issue.

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Challenger Michela Skelton and incumbent Sara Walsh are seeking the state legislative post on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Proposition D would: raise the state's fuels tax by 10 cents a gallon, phased in over a four-year period; create the "Emergency State Freight Bottleneck Fund" to pay for certain repairs to congested traffic areas; and exempt the Olympics, Special Olympics and Paralympics medals from state taxation.

If passed, at least $288 million annually would generate to the state road fund to provide for the funding of Missouri state law enforcement and $123 million annually to local governments for road construction and maintenance, proponents of the issue say.

Skelton defines infrastructure as "anything that's necessary for our communities to function properly and to thrive."

She said that includes broadbrand internet, public libraries, water and energy systems.

In many rural communities, broadband internet is unavailable. Skelton said this is limiting the residents' access to job applications and education online.

"It's putting our rural students at a disadvantage," Skelton said.

Skelton said she is recommending a no vote on Prop D. "The way it's structured it puts a lot of pressure on low-income families," she said.

She said the state could pay for improvements by "heavy state investment" and "rolling back some of those corporate tax cuts that we've passed over the last 10 years."

Walsh said she defines infrastructure as the "building blocks of the society" and more than roads and bridges.

She mentioned the Legislature passed bills last session to help broadband development in rural communities. A grant program within the Department of Economic Development to expand internet in under-served parts of Missouri was passed with HB 1872. Another bill, HB 1880, describes access to broadband as "in the best interest of citizens."

Walsh said she voted for Proposition D to be on the ballot and sent a survey to constituents in District 50. Those who responded, she said, were in favor of a gas tax.

"You will have a portion of this tax — until voters decide to change it in the future — that will go toward the cities or counties so they can handle local issues. It's not all going to go to the state."