Missouri's Republican-led Legislature is bamboozling voters with its tax cut, according to J. Don Salcedo, the Democratic candidate for the Missouri House of Representatives District 60 seat.
Salcedo, the challenger to Republican incumbent Dave Griffith, said working individuals may get a $10 or $15 break on their taxes while the wealthy will see cuts in the thousands.
The recently passed tax cut was one of several issues Salcedo lists as his priorities for the Nov. 8 election.
The News Tribune asked both candidates to talk a little bit about their top issues as the campaign begins to heat up. The men are running to see which will represent the district for the next two years. The district generally follows Jefferson City lines, except it excludes North Jefferson City (north of the Missouri River) and a portion of the city south of U.S. 50 and west of Missouri 179.
Griffith said it's important to him that he be re-elected because he has unfinished business.
"I like what I'm doing. I think I've been effective the four years I've been here," Griffith said. "I've gotten 14 bills across the finish line. Many of my bills were related to veterans and veterans' issues."
Last session, he said, a bill that was very important to him dealt with foster care and adoption -- getting the Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division to do a deeper dive for children entering foster care.
"Protecting our children should be our number one goal," Griffith said. "I've met with children's services and their deputy director. They face some challenges. I told them in my meeting I want to do everything I can to help them."
The bill requires the Children's Division to make diligent searches for the biological parent or parents in a timely manner after child is placed into its custody. And it requires the division to diligently search for and locate grandparents for child placement, then search for other relatives should grandparents be unavailable or unable to care for children.
Griffith, chair of the House Veterans Committee, said veterans are obviously a priority for him. A former U.S. Army Green Beret, he has championed veterans programs as a lawmaker.
"A priority for next session is to address veterans' suicides," Griffith said.
This summer, Griffith chaired the Interim Committee on Veterans Mental Health and Suicide.
"Three meetings brought out some very compelling stories," he said last week. "Just this Sunday, a veteran who grew up in my neighborhood committed suicide. When it happens close to home, it breaks my heart."
A priority is to give veterans some tools to prevent suicide, he said. The recently passed 988 hotline has an option for veterans, which will allow veterans to speak with other veterans -- people with shared life experiences, Griffith said.
"You can talk with a combat veteran," he continued. "When you come back from combat, you're a different person. Don't compartmentalize that or try to bury it. Bringing it up is the first step (in getting help)."
Salcedo spent 40 years in education.
He's concerned about Missouri's neglect of the education system.
The major issues Missouri faces in education today are low teacher pay and poor outcomes. He points out that Missouri remains in the bottom half of states in education rankings. Forbes ranks Missouri the 29th best public school system (out of 50 states and the District of Columbia). U.S. News ranks Missouri 30th. The Report Card on American Education gives Missouri a C- for its educational efforts (and also ranks the state 30th).
"Missouri can do better if we correct some of these deficiencies we have," Salcedo said. "Does the proof of the pudding not show that they are always falling behind?"
Salcedo also said Missouri's "loose gun laws" are a recipe for disaster. Concealed carry passed the Legislature in Missouri, but voters wouldn't pass it, he said.
"I'm afraid gun violence will occur in Missouri because of our loose gun laws," he said. "My opponent has already said that his major issues are abortion -- ban on abortion -- and he wants to support the Second Amendment. I have hunted and fished most of my life. I didn't need a weapon of war to get my first buck."
Additionally, Missouri doesn't have adequate mental health services for its residents, Salcedo said.
Griffith said he'll continue trying to pass his bill to allow state employees to be paid every two weeks, instead of twice a month. He'll also continue to push for 100 percent state property tax relief for veterans.