The Missouri Farm Bureau invited me to participate in a Zoom candidates interview on Thursday, August 27. Since they didn’t make this open to the public, I thought it might be helpful for voters who are not members of the Farm Bureau to at least know how I answered their questions. Following is the written questionnaire they sent me and which I filled out and returned to them. The board members present for the Zoom interview basically asked me some version of these questions. My understanding is that Republican Candidate Karla Eslinger was supposed to answer the same questions in her interview. Obviously, I have no idea how she answered her questions. But for the benefit of voters, I am posting the questions and responses from me. Bear in mind I had limited space for writing my answers. Please contact me if you have information that might be helpful on these topics or any others that concern you. The citizens are always my number one concern.
- If elected, what are your top priorities for the 2021-2022 legislative sessions?
- Improved medical care for rural Missourians.
- Improved education for rural Missourians.
- Affordable rural broadband service and economic development for rural Missourians.
- What do you see as the top issues facing agriculture and rural Missouri? How would you address them? a. Preservation of family farms. b. Greater balance among ecological concerns, and balance of family vs. corporate farms. c. Encouragement of sustainable farming in Missouri and increase the food security of Missourians.
- Missouri Farm Bureau policy acknowledges the need for increased highway and bridge funding and could support additional funding through the fuel tax, sales tax, and/or vehicle fees as long as the allocation remains fair between rural and urban areas. What do you believe should be done to improve the funding of Missouri’s highways and bridges?
Response: I agree with the need for infrastructure and agree on the concept of fair and equitable rural/urban taxes and fees. Another idea might be to identify businesses which benefit greatly from this infrastructure and develop a fair user tax for them.
Some Rural Missouri highways are vital to moving agriculture good. In most cases these roads receive the same funding as other rural routes. Would you support dedicated funding to market roads?
- Missouri currently ranks 41st in broadband availability. He 2016 FCC Broadband Progress Report found that 61 percent of rural Missourians do not have access to high speed internet. In recent years, MOFB and the state of Missouri have taken steps to address this issue. Do you support the state’s office of broadband?
What would you do to address the connectivity gap between urban and rural Missouri?
Response: I think we need to first identify priorities such as education and businesses, including farming, that require broadband to function and grow. Funds need to first go there. There might also be grants or programs to develop and industry of remote worker. That is an area of growth during this pandemic. Many large companies are now allowing workers greater choice in where they live/work. This is an excellent opportunity for Missouri to offer these workers a rural lifestyle combined with their city/urban paycheck. That means there money is spent here in Missouri and helps our rural economies. This presents an EXCELLENT opportunity for all.
- Under current law, agricultural land is assessed for property tax based on it productivity rather than market values. Do you support continuing to assess agricultural land for purposes of property tax in this manner?
Response: It seems to me this is an outdated method of taxation. It discourages production and does not recognize the growing value of rural real estate. Our rural communities need an improved tax base from which to allow provision of services our rural communities need.
- Knowing that agricultural commodity prices fluctuate, putting farmers and ranchers at the mercy of the markets, would you support legislation restricting the amount the State Tax Commission can increase agriculture land productivity values for two year reevaluation and over a ten year span?
Response: Family farmers need every advantage we can give them in our current economic times.
- Do you believe private transmission companies whose customer base and rates of service are not regulated like those of Missouri electric utilities or rural electric cooperatives should have the power of eminent domain?
Response: To a certain extent. There always needs to be a balance between public and private interests. Affected landowners should be appropriately compensated.
- Do you support the expansion of animal agriculture in the state of Missouri, including animal feeding operations?
Response: There must be a balance among ecology, community, and corporate interests.
- In 1993, the legislature and governor approved a law to exempt three counties in northern Missouri from the state’s restrictions on corporate agriculture. In 2012, three more counties were exempted. Do you support keeping restrictions on corporate agriculture?
Response: Every county should have the same rights and responsibilities to protect their citizenry and land.
- Missouri voters in 1980 and 1996 approved constitution amendments to limit the growth of state taxes and to restrict the state legislature’s ability to increase taxes without voter approval. Do you support keeping these tax provisions?
Response: Yes, within reason. Our state’s treasury is provided largely through taxpayers, so as much as possible, taxpayers need to have the final say on how that money is collected and dispersed.
- Would you support requiring voter approval of the 1/8th cent sales tax for the Missouri Department of Conservation every ten years similar to the process for renewal of the 1/10th cent Parks and Soils Sales Tax?
- Do you believe there needs to be state campaign finance/ethics reform, and if so, what would you support?
Response: Yes, there needs to be a more even playing field so that ideas are the focus of election campaigns, rather than money, especially concerning the influence of lobbyists.
- What do you believe the appropriate role is for Missouri state government in helping provide adequate and affordable healthcare for Missouri families?
Response: We cannot develop a great economy for Missouri without a healthy workforce. Too many working Missourians are currently priced out of health insurance. I fully supported Medicaid Expansion.
- What do you believe are the greatest challenges facing Missouri’s schools and what would you do to address those challenges?
- Lack of broadband service to allow every student internet access at school and at home.
- A balance of traditional learning and internet-based learning, with that balance shifting with students as they progress in age and skill level.
- Better preparation for the job market and/or college or trade schools.
- In recent years Missouri has seen an increase in the use of the initiative petition process. Several measures that have been unable to pass the legislature have become ballot initiatives. Do you see this as a problem moving forward?
Response: No. I believe the people need to have good access to government. When the legislature and government leaders are non-responsive to the needs of the citizens, the initiative petition process gives that access, within reason.