November 2, 2006
Face to Face with Your Candidates for State Senator and Representative
The Memphis Democrat asked a series of five questions to the candidates in the First District State Representative and 18th District Senate races.
1. Amendment #2 seems to be one of the more divisive issues on the November 7th ballot. Where do you stand on stem cell research?
BRIAN MUNZLINGER - I am against Amendment 2. I am for adult stem cell research, which has had luck in finding cures, but I am against embryonic stem cell research where they destroy a human embryo; it still has yet to develop a single cure. Amendment 2 is the most far reaching of any amendment for Missourians to ever vote on. It takes away any legislative oversight and mandates that state funding can never be cut. It redefines cloning to fit their needs and would change our MO Constitution in 45 sections.
BEAU HICKS - I am against human cloning and Amendment 2 does ban human cloning, something that is NOT banned in this state at this time. I am and always have been 100% pro-life and feel as Governor Blunt that this is a very Pro-Life Amendment...pro-every life. There is a lot of misinformation out there on this and I encourage folks to take time to study the issue and vote what they feel best with and I will use the vote of the First District as a guidepost in my votes on this sort of issue in Jefferson City. Personally I will vote for Amendment 2 because I think all life precious and because God gave us the gift of knowledge we just must be good users of that knowledge.
WES SHOEMYER - I have served six years in the legislature voting pro-life 100% of the time. This amendment language clearly bans cloning and the attempt to clone. It would allow Missourians access to the same life saving cures as the rest of the country. I believe that life is precious the whole life. Missourians should be allowed to benefit from that research.
BOB BEHNEN - Iíll be voting no on Amendment 2, the stem cell initiative, and my reasons are both from faith, morals and personal based. My faith tells me that you shouldnít create a life and summarily end a life in order to save a life.
Sanctity of life isnít an issue you can have and not have for political gain; itís a true system of beliefs. From a scientific standpoint, there are absolutely zero diseases or illnesses that are proven to be scientifically curable through embryonic stem cell research.
Finally, my decisions are deeply personal. Earlier this year, my sister, who has juvenile diabetes, became gravely ill, went into septic shock and nearly died. I sat with her in the hospital, and this very topic came up. I asked her what she thought, as the supporters of this proposal were looking to her as someone who might benefit from this initiative if passed.
She said, ďWhen I get to Heaven, I donít want to have to think whether or not I took a life to save mine.Ē I agree, and that reason, coupled with the sanctity of life issues, are why Iíll be voting no.
2. Rural Missouri continues to struggle with population drain, as our youth have to go where the jobs are. What ideas do you have for economic development to stop this devastating trend?
BEAU HICKS - We must see progress in this district because too many of our children are leaving because they see no progress here...no good jobs being created. I want to make sure that our name is on the table in Jeff City and that prospective businesses know that we are ready for them and that we have incentive packages ready for them to bring good paying jobs with benefits to our region. I also plan to work on bringing back the Main Street program from the days of Sen. Merrill to help revitalize our struggling main street businesses that are fighting the big guys to stay alive. This is an area where I see great potential and canít wait to work for some REAL RESULTS. -
BRIAN MUNZLINGER - We all know that a large employer of 1,000 or more is probably not going to happen locally so we need to tailor help to boost small employers. Education can play a key role in building entrepreneurship in our rural areas. Agriculture is another area that we cannot overlook as times changeóthere are opportunities that may be available.
WES SHOEMYER - We need to look at the policy that forged our ethanol industry in Missouri. It ensured we give priority to local ownership by farmers. If Archer Daniels Midland would have owned the plant in Macon, we would only have 27 jobs, and all of the profits would leave the state. The Macon ethanol plant was the first ethanol plant with 312 local owners, including owners who live in Scotland County. As a result, the profits stay in our local communities. This in turn allows for more taxes to be paid and gives young people, like my son, a greater opportunity to come back to the family farm. We need to expand this model to locally or cooperative owned businesses to keep what wealth we have here at home.
BOB BEHNEN - Iíve helped create two strong initiatives in the past few months to bring jobs to rural Missouri. I spearheaded the effort in Kirksville to bring the first Missouri Rural Enterprise and Innovation Center north of I-70 to the region. This will help current business owners whoíll receive much-needed support and advice from economic development professionals. It also will help potential small business owners who just need that extra push to fully develop an idea into a thriving market. The center will serve the next generations of Northeast Missourians very well, and I worked hard to bring this to fruition.
I also believe my BRING program - Businesses Reinvesting in the Next Generation - will help small and mid-sized businesses in rural Missouri, allowing them to take a tax-free part of their profits and invest it for job training, equipment updates, or new product lines, helping to fight off potential closures. We hear time and again that in rural Missouri, businesses close because they canít compete with the incentives offered from other states or cities.
I believe these types of ideas and plans are what earned me the endorsement of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the Associated Industries of Missouri.
3. Cuts to Missouriís funding of social services have come under fire during the election. Does the current system work, and if not what needs to be fixed?
BOB BEHNEN - From 1965 to 1995, Missouri Medicaid had built up its roll to 500,000 people. Over the next 10 years, we doubled what weíd done in the previous thirty years. We had 1 million people on the rolls in 2005. This exponential growth, coupled with declining revenues, caused us to come to a crossroads as to how to reform the system.
Further, distressing reports from the state auditorís office, noting that half the recipients were not annually verified for eligibility, meant that precious dollars were being taken away from those who most needed the assistance. So what we did is slow its growth; we didnít cut Medicaid. In fact, Medicaid was the single-largest increase in the budget last year with an additional $284 million. Only in Jefferson City is a $284 million increase considered a cut.
Clearly, Missouri voters wanted the state to live within its means. Tough decisions were made in order to make sure our citizens most in need received the necessary assistance. So, we went through the entire Medicaid program directing money to those who needed it the most, making it more efficient and realizing savings of over $137 million.
We need to further make the programs more efficient and make sure our citizens who need the help the most are addressed before we move the program to different levels. We must take care of the needy, not the greedy.
WES SHOEMYER - The cuts that were implemented were cruel and certainly not efficient. The vast majority of the fraud in the Medicaid system is on the provider side. We need to root out waste, fraud and abuse so that we have the resources to provide the services that are needed by our seniors, children, and disabled. I will work to find a solution to restore these cuts.
BRIAN MUNZLINGER - Missouriís Medicaid still had the largest increase of any state program this yearó$280 million. I think we all agree that we need to have a way to provide health care for the needy, but I have heard of cases of program abuse where families making over $60,000 a year were being subsidized by our tax dollars. My constituents must have heard of abuses also because 89% responded to my questionnaire that they would rather see us slow the growth in Medicaid rather than raise taxes. We currently have a committee looking into changes that will help get care to where it is needed without the abuse. There are tax and spend liberals who want to restore the old program where there were over 30,000 people who did not even qualify but were benefiting with our tax dollars at the needyís expense!
BEAU HICKS - Missouriís Healthcare system is broken and we must step back and fix it. We cannot continue to put band-aids on this system...we can NOT continue to take a meat axe approach by cutting hundreds of thousands of people off of their healthcare plans. We must address the real problems and that starts with the drug companies and the prices that we have all seen soar in the past years. We need a Representative who will not just go along with the crowd but who will stand up and fight the fight that needs to be fought. No one in Northeast Missouri should have to choose between healthcare and food...there are many right here in our district who think it is cheaper for them to die than to fight the system of continuously raising healthcare cost. Rep. Munzlinger voted for these cuts and has yet to give us a good reason why, when I cast a hard vote I will explain my actions to you the people whom my actions will affect.
4. Voters are hearing the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage via Proposition B. Where do you stand on this issue?
WES SHOEMYER - If people do not have money they cannot spend it. If their economic status is so low, the state ends up providing services. The earning power of the minimum wage is lower than ever. Citizens deserve a raise and that is why I support it.
BOB BEHNEN - I will be voting against Proposition B, because I believe it will cost people jobs who weíre ultimately trying to help.
Obviously, like everyone else in Northeast Missouri, I believe people should have the opportunity to earn more. But, employers have told me time and again thereís only a finite amount of money to go around. I think the way for employers to pay more is to have more competition for employees, allowing them to pay higher wages and better benefits. But, others are poised to lose their jobs altogether. All weíre doing is shifting the amount of money already being used.
We need to find a way, through economic development, to increase the amount of money we see in the state. We donít need a bigger piece of the pie; we need a bigger pie. The proposed minimum wage increase will benefit some, but at the expense of others.
BEAU HICKS - The minimum wage in the state of Missouri is too low and I think we can all see that, however I do have an issue with Proposition B. This proposition not only dramatically increases the minimum wage but it also puts in a cost of living raise each year and that is where my problem is. Many of us would simply love to see a cost of living increase each year based on the national rate but, that just is too often not feasible, especially to a small business.
BRIAN MUNZLINGER - I am against Prop. B. What we really need are good paying jobs. Most people do not realize that this affects the whole pay scale and not just the bottom end. I know of very few minimum wage jobs anyway, but our youth would suffer as they try to get part-time jobs to earn money.
5. The Northeast Missouri Grain, LLC, the cooperative that owns the Macon ethanol plant has ties to Scotland County. What roll does alternative fuel play in the future of our state and what other plans do you have for the stateís agriculture policy?
BRIAN MUNZLINGER - Value-added agriculture can play a large roll in the future of our state. Missouri is the leader in production of several agriculture products. As we have increased production of corn and soybeans in this state, the fuel alternative industry is one where we can be a leader. Our 10% ethanol bill shows Missouriís strong commitment to alternative fuels. As we produce these fuels, we also produce livestock feed, another ag area that has growth potential. All of this combines to provide a stable rural economy and jobs. Wind energy is something new on the horizon that I think we need to look into.
BEAU HICKS - Value Added Agriculture is the future of our area and I truly believe that our State Representative should be actively working with community leaders and farmers to bring these industries into our area. We see value added plants popping up from Quincy to Keokuk yet here we sit, there is a lot of potential in this area and I WILL WORK to bring industry right here into the First District. The Macon Ethanol Plant is a wonderful investment in the future of our state, but I also believe that we can work on other sorts of value added ventures for the First District without affecting the personal investment of our Representative or any of the other investors in Northeast Missouri Grain, LLC. Examples include; Corn Flour, Corn Oil, Soy Oil and other ventures looking to locate small plants into the Midwest with good paying jobs and benefits and opportunities for local investments.
WES SHOEMYER - As I have mentioned, locally-owned ethanol plants ó like the Macon plant with several Scotland County co-owners ó will play a pivotal role in many family farmersí personal operations. But, more than that, it will help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, help keep our environment clean and it helps rebuild our local economies. I will also continue to be an unwavering voice for family farmers fighting to return their right to save their own seed. This will keep more of our wealth at home and keep us competitive in the world market.
BOB BEHNEN - Missouri is among the first few states in the nation to pass an ethanol bill. I wrote, sponsored, and never wavered in my support for this bill, bringing lower gas prices, more jobs, and giving a significant boost to our rural farmers. Iím the only candidate in this race that can make that claim.
I also strongly support our move to implement other forms of alternative energies, such as our support of biodiesel and the opening of the new Biodiesel Plant in Mexico.
Itís time we took a stand as a state and as a nation to stop sending money overseas to people who hate America and the values we stand for and hold dear. We need to keep our money here. We donít need to look to the Middle East for our future energy needs; we need to look right here in Middle America.
I also plan to sponsor legislation to remove the sales tax on diesel fuel and fencing materials used for farming purposes. That, plus my 100% voting record, motivated the Missouri Farm Bureau to endorse me over my opponent, who has a 24% voting record with Farm Bureau.