Missouri House of Representatives District 59 candidates Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville, and Linda Greeson, D-Eldon, answered a series of questions during a forum hosted by the News Tribune on Wednesday evening.
Here are questions and the candidates' responses — edited for length and clarity — that were not addressed in the story in Thursday's edition.
The initial follow-up story and full video of the forum are available at newstribune.com/november2018election.
Responses are given in the order they were received.
From reader Sue Gibson: Do you believe the August vote against Proposition A (right to work) should be respected and considered settled as per the will of the people, or that the state legislature should keep trying to pass right-to-work legislation?
Greeson: Voters have spoken and lawmakers should respect the will of the people.
Veit: That is a settled issue. How many years before it gets brought up again are uncertain, but the will of the people has to be respected.
Proposition D is on the Nov. 6 ballot, seeking an increase in the state's fuel tax. Do you support it? Is it enough to address roads and bridges?
Veit: The increase in the fuel tax is long overdue. The government and its people have an obligation to fix the state's roads and buildings and not pass that debt down to the next generation. Good roads are good for business. A lot of people don't think it's going to be adequate, but it is a starting point.
Greeson: The increase comes over several years, so it's not a shock to drivers. The revenue is needed to improve transportation, safety and increase economic development.
How do you plan to convince lawmakers from other parts of the state that Missouri government employees need better pay and benefits?
Greeson: All legislators work with state employees every day in Jefferson City. The workers have jobs throughout the state. Lawmakers may just need to be educated into the employees' needs. If wages are higher, it's more money that goes into legislators' areas.
Veit: Other legislators have different priorities than those here in Jefferson City. And, turnover with employees costs Missouri money. Also, poor wages and benefits are preventing the state from properly staffing the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
From an audience member: It's been a long time since a Jefferson City representative served on a budget committee. Do you have the time or interest in serving on a budget committee?
Veit: I want to be on the Judicial and Agricultural committees. Serving on the Agricultural Committee is an avenue to arrive on the Budget Committee. I desire to be on the Budget Committee and have the experience to balance a budget.
Greeson: I don't claim to know everything about the state budget, but am willing to learn. Whether on the committee or not, I will study the budget closely every year.
With all the issues facing the state, how do you convince other legislators that next year "is now" on state pay or the foundation formula — the basis for public education funding in Missouri, calculated using attendance figures, adequacy of education, costs of living in a community and how much local taxes can contribute to education?
Veit: We need to show the cost to lose state workers — not having good retention. It doesn't cost as much as they think it does because there would be less training to cover turnover. Lawmakers must meet their obligations on the Foundation Formula to keep from leaving schools in a bind.
Greeson: The climate that state employees are working in is sometimes not positive and leadership has to play a role in correcting that. We need to look at the budget to see where money is going.
What sort of voter reforms would be necessary to allay voters' fears concerning lobbyists and "dark money," and what pledges would you make regarding accepting gifts, contributions or favors?
Greeson: Dark money pays too large a role in Missouri politics. Anytime someone votes for a candidate who accepts money from shadowy out-of-state PACs, they are voting "for the dark money to be the king of Missouri." I have only accepted money from people I know.
Veit: On ethics, when I was studying for the bar, my senior partner told me to forget that and, "If it smells bad, it probably is bad." Legislators have to get some information from lobbyists because term limits prevent long-term institutional knowledge. You don't have to rely upon them for money. U.S. Supreme Court decisions dictate what can and can't be done about dark money.
From reader Scott Randolph: In relation to school vouchers and charter schools, how would you ensure all Missouri students have equal access to quality education and how to attract the best teachers?
Veit: The state shouldn't pay for a parent putting their child in a private school. Parents are responsible for addressing how their school district is operated. Districts have to have enough money to provide adequate schools and to pay teachers appropriately.
Greeson: We must fully fund the foundation formula. Salaries and wages for teachers must be increased. Their pensions must be protected so they know they can live securely in later years.
From an audience member Barbara Reading: What should be done to reduce gun violence in Missouri?
Greeson: In discussions with law enforcement organizations, the topic that comes up most is the need for more mental health services. We need places where we can refer students and adults.
Veit: A concern is gun violence in schools. Missouri needs more resource officers in more schools. Legislators could provide programs to train retired police officers and military personnel as resource officers. Mental health is a gray area. Who determines if someone is mentally competent?
Where do you stand on gun rights?
Greeson: I believe in the Second Amendment. We are a farming family and have guns. Something has got to be done to prevent gun violence and suicides. It comes back to more mental health, which comes back to providing health care for folks.
Veit: I respect the right for people to own and carry guns. There should possibly be some reasonable limitations. We need to look at whatever is reasonable to curtail mass violence. Mental illness is connected with most incidents of mass violence.
Who is responsible for getting broadband to rural customers? What are the obstacles?
Greeson: My electricity (in rural Miller County) is provided by a co-op, which declines to provide broadband service because it is "cost prohibitive." A neighboring co-op provides broadband for all their customers. It is a necessity for attracting businesses and industry, and also a rapidly technologically advancing agricultural industry. Maybe tax breaks or some other encouragement is needed to get other electrical co-ops and private utility companies to offer broadband.
Veit: Broadband and good cellphone service are critical for rural growth. People searching for homes in rural communities don't ask Realtors if they have television service, they ask if they have broadband. It will stimulate health care and allow people to work from home if they wish.
What is the biggest issue facing our schools, and how would you address it as a legislator?
Veit: The biggest issue facing schools is getting students active and wanting to participate. We need to get more programs involved.
Greeson: The biggest school issue is security of buildings — keeping children safe.
What is the biggest issue facing the criminal justice system, and how would you try to address it as a legislator?
Greeson: It looks to me like pay — salaries. They are putting their lives on the line every day. We need to reward those folks for stepping up and doing that.
Veit: Holding different types of courts equips the court system to keep people out of prison. The state is paying less and less causing the counties to spend more and more of their money on taking care of prisoners and less on patrolling streets.
What is the biggest issue facing health care, and how would you address it as a legislator?
Veit: There are several issues. One is that they don't have sufficient money to operate hospitals. We have to address the amount of money that goes from the insurance company to the doctor and how much the doctor actually charges.
Greeson: The biggest issue is availability to poor people. I was disappointed when the Legislature did not expand Medicaid for people who could get diagnosis and treatment for people early on — before conditions became expensive to treat or became fatal.
What is the biggest issue facing senior citizens, and how would you address it as a legislator?
Greeson: I see a lot of seniors working at jobs that, years ago, teenagers took as first jobs. Seniors are trying to live on Social Security. They don't have pensions, and I would like to see more businesses have defined pensions.
Veit: The major thing I see is health care. Seniors cannot afford insurance or they have high deductibles. There are limitations to what they can receive care for. They may have to pay for in-home care themselves.
What is the biggest issue facing low-income families, and how would you address it?
Veit: Low-income families have a concern about health care. They lack optimism. We have to provide programs for their children, so they can learn and become self-sufficient.
Greeson: Low-income families want roofs over their heads and food for their families. We need to encourage programs like backpack food programs.
What is the biggest issue facing middle-income families, and how would you address it?
Greeson: A lot of families that consider themselves middle-income are sliding into poverty.
Veit: Some of the same issues apply to middle class families. Medical deductibles are too high. They want good educations and opportunities for their children.