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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri House of Representatives District 59 candidates Linda Greeson, left, and Rudy Veit square off during Tuesday's candidate forum sponsored by the News Tribune at Blair Oaks Middle School. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

Missouri House District 59 Candidate Forum Video

Use the video player above to view the archived forum webcast or access the News Tribune YouTube channel here via this link.

The candidates for the Missouri House of Representative 59th District on Tuesday night fielded questions ranging from what legislation they might first introduce as members of the General Assembly to their stances on school vouchers and what might be done to reduce gun violence.

The candidates, Rudy Veit, a Republican from Wardsville who is an attorney, and Linda Ellen, a Democrat from Eldon who is a retired teacher, are vying for the seat held by state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, who is completing his fourth term. Term limits prohibit him from running for another term. He is now the Republican candidate for the state Senate seat once held by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.

Greeson, who with her husband runs a small cow/calf operation in Miller County, spent the last six years volunteering for the Missouri Retired Teachers Association on legislative issues. That's what prompted her to file for the position, she said.

"The attacks on public education that are currently taking place in the Legislature need to stop," she said. "Because what a child given a good, free public education — what that child can grow up to be or do or invent or create" is limitless.

She said she'd like to see state employees have higher incomes, but also to have the tools they need to do their jobs well. Greeson said they are challenged in their jobs because they don't have up-to-date technology and equipment.

Veit, who has lived in Cole County his entire life, said he has enjoyed going to work every day at the law firm where he works, Carson & Coil.

"Every day, I can help somebody," he said. "I can answer a problem; I can give some relief. That's what I want to do in the Legislature, is to continue my work of helping individuals."

Veit said he's worked in the woods, roofed houses and has a degree in accounting. He also has run a small business.

"I, too, have concerns about state wages and public education," he said. "But, I believe that my background is much broader than public education."

His background gives him the experience to represent voters in the Legislature, he added.

Gary Castor, managing editor for the News Tribune, which sponsored the forum, asked Veit what achievement in the Legislature he hoped to be able to look back on in a year, if elected.

Veit responded his door is open for constituents. Those constituents bring ideas through his door.

The constituents on any given topic may know more than him.

He looks forward to working together with other representatives to get issues resolved — transportation, public education and state wages.

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Asked the same question, Greeson said in a year, she'd like to see state employees with higher incomes and the tools they need — new computers and programs — to do their jobs.

"The current Legislature wants them to work as a business, and that's great, but they need to — as a business — provide them with the tools," she said.

The first bill Greeson would likely file, she said, would be legislation — whose exact wording would have to be determined — to fully fund the Foundation Formula.

The Foundation Formula is the basis for public education funding in Missouri. It uses attendance figures, adequacy of education, costs of living in communities and how much local taxes can contribute to education. The formula is considered a minimum amount of money the state needs to pay to ensure each child receives an appropriate education.

She said children in Missouri deserve good, free public education.

While Veit agreed funding public education is very important in allowing all the state's children to succeed, he said he's spoken to legislators who have let him know it takes some training to get big bills through.

"I would start with a bill that's not so significant to learn the procedures and make sure that when I took on a major bill that I would be prepared to do that," he said. "The Legislature is a whole world in and of itself with its own set of rules."

He said he wouldn't want to undertake a major bill without some legislators co-sponsoring it.

He said if he is elected, he would want to start working behind the scenes, learning the ropes, adding you don't win a lawsuit in court, rather you win it by being prepared.

He'd like to get better wages for state employees.

"There's a crisis there," Veit said.

That issue has had good representation in the past that tried to get the work done. He said he doesn't think previous legislators were inefficient, but sometimes it takes a major crisis to get people to act.

Veit said an issue that appears to have been ignored is there is an effort to bring children with learning disabilities or who have difficulties with different school subjects the help they need.

"If a child in the third or fourth grade has a reading problem, they're probably behind the ball already," he said.

He said he'd like to see more money funneled into the issue.

Greeson said infrastructure is the issue that is most overlooked — particularly broadband.

"And I live with that daily because I live in a very rural area of Miller County," she said of the lack of broadband access.

She said the Legislature has given tax breaks to corporations to try to attract businesses to the state. Broadband, or the lack thereof, is going to prevent companies from coming to the state and building factories.

"One thing I've not seen much movement on in the Legislature is getting the state equipped with broadband," Greeson said.

Castor posed a question regarding the General Assembly's cuts to corporate taxes as a way to encourage economic growth, yet many companies cite the need for transportation, infrastructure, health care, public secondary and higher education, and government services as incentives for entering a state. How might the candidates approach economic development in the state?

Veit said he's not a fan of taxes, and lowering taxes in certain areas can cause economic stimulus. It gives corporations the ability to expand and gives individuals more money in their pockets.

"If those don't work, then we may have to look at alternatives to arrive at additional income for our schools — additional income for our roads," Veit said. "We have certain basics that we need to meet."

The state has to take whatever steps are necessary to obtain what it needs. He said he doesn't think people are as opposed to taxes as they are opposed to waste.

"They want us to use our money wisely, and (they) believe that a vibrant economy will raise more money," he said.

Sometimes, we're going to have to raise taxes, because they are a necessary evil, he said.

"I think we have won the race to the bottom, as far as corporate tax breaks," Greeson said. "And I think it's time for those corporate tax breaks to stop, and it's time to work on just what you listed off there — transportation, health care, public education, higher education."

Not only do corporations want them in an area before they move in, she said, but they need them.

To finish the forum, each candidate was asked what is the one thing that might cause them sleepless nights once they assume office.

Both said they would feel frustrated if they couldn't get things done.

"What would give (me) sleepless nights is when I think, 'Why don't they understand? Why can't they see what we're trying to do here?'" Greeson said.

The thing that would cause him the most sleepless nights, Veit said, would be "the inability to get things done that I want done.

"Recognizing that I have great expectations and we're going to hit a lot of roadblocks. I certainly want to put a lot of effort into economic development."

Use the video player at the top of the story to view the archived forum webcast or access the News Tribune YouTube channel here via this link.

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