October 26, 2006

Democratic Candidates Appear At Memphis Forum

A pair of Democratic candidates for state office met with a crowd of approximately 40 guests at the Memphis Theatre for a public forum hosted by the Missouri State Workers Union.

Candidates for First District State Representative and 18th District State Senator were invited to the event organized by CWA Local 6355 which includes workers in the Social Services and Health and Senior Services.

Organizer Richard von Glahn stated the group hoped that the event would serve as a debate between the candidates offering the union members the opportunity to ask questions regarding Medicaid cuts, and funding reductions for social services.

“We often bear the public anger for the difficult decisions we have to make at work everyday,” he stated. “That is why we are hosting this forum, to give the public some real answers and ask for some real accountability from our current and future and elected officials in Jefferson City.”

Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, and Beau Hicks, D-Ewing both attended the event and answered questions from the public in attendance. Rep. Brian Munzlinger, R-Lewistown, and Rep. Bob Behnen, R-Kirksville, were unable to attend the event due to previous commitments. CWA Local 6355 has officially endorsed the candidacies of Hicks and Shoemyer.

Several of the social service workers in attendance questioned Medicaid cuts and highlighted job difficulties created by funding cuts.

Shoemyer pointed to a report from Governor Mel Blunt that the state had a $247 million surplus last year. Combined with anticipated revenue increases of 9.2 percent, he feels the state needs to revisit the funding cuts.

“There were revisions that needed to be made here, but we should not have seen the arbitrary cuts that were made simply to generate savings on the books,” Shoemyer stated. “The cuts were not thought out. I call it the ‘meat axe’ approach. It was simply a slash and burn approach.”

Hicks concurred, pointing to this issue as one of the main reasons he decided to enter the race for first district representative after supporting incumbent Munzlinger in years past.

“When he sat across from me and told me he was proud of his voting record, that is when I decided to try to make a difference and to run for office,” Hicks said. “We have a representative that voted 98-percent on the party line last year. Is the party line right for the district 98 percent of the time? I don’t think so.”

Shoemyer stated that the Medicaid issue will be crucial in the upcoming legislative session.

He indicated the desire to review the funding reductions to try to solve problems that arose under the current plan.

“What this plan did was simply shift costs, which really is not a savings’” he said. “If you make cuts, it needs to generate a savings – not simply represent a cut.”

Former representative Karl DeMarce pointed out one of the local hardships created by the funding cuts in social services. As Associate Circuit Judge he noted that the lack of an area mental health coordinator, a position that was cut to save money, was shifting the burden to law enforcement agencies.

“We constantly have people in our jails that are a threat to others and to themselves,” DeMarce stated.

He noted that the lack of a coordinator as well as other cost saving measures made in this field, were ultimately costing law enforcement agencies.

Other forum topics included Amendment 2, which both candidates expressed support for.

Hicks and Shoemyer also discussed education funding, the plight of nursing homes, and economic development.

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