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Area incumbents, candidates agree on selling MOHELA assets

Area incumbents, candidates agree on selling MOHELA assets

Answers are from (in order) Jeff Harris, District 23, Patrick Crabtree, District 23, Ed Robb, District 24, Jim Ritter, District 24

What legislation, in general, is needed to stimulate business growth and create jobs?

With Missouri lagging in the bottom third in unemployment in America, we need more jobs. We should make public university tuition tax deductible; favor Missouri companies in state government contracting; promote investment of venture capital; give incentives to 21st century businesses for research and development; reduce government red tape for businesses; rewrite the school funding bill that took $19 million dollars from Columbia Public Schools; defeat the funding freeze to the University of Missouri; and pass MOHELA.

We need to revamp and simplify how income taxes are done in the state. We should consider repealing the corporate income tax. Keeping taxes low is also very important. When we yank less money out of the public’s pocket, people have more to spend and to make ends meet. Companies get more business, hire additional people and increase their profits, thus strengthening our economy. When more money circulates through the economy, then tax revenues increase for the state. It’s been proven time and again that lower taxes strengthen the economy and produce more revenue for the state. We need to find ways to cut waste and be more efficient with tax dollars.

During my first term in office, we’ve helped create over 49,000 jobs in the past two years by passing pro-growth legislation, taking Missouri from recession to robust growth. My No. 1 priority going forward is obtaining legislative approval for tapping MOHELA resources through the Lewis & Clark Initiative. This plan would bring almost $100 million in new construction dollars to Columbia and over $300 million statewide, creating construction jobs and permanent research and support jobs at higher education institutions.

The most important legislation for Columbia and Boone County is a bill which will allow for the sale of MOHELA assets. The sale of these assets, assuming the distribution of funds follows the governor’s recommendation, will bring $94 million to MU and provide substantial dollars for the construction of a Health Science Research and Education Center. This center, in turn, will bring significant numbers of researchers and their teams to this community and have a dramatic impact on the local economy.

Would you support raising the state sales tax by one cent to raise revenue to widen Interstate 70 (State Sen. Bill Stouffer’s proposal)?

No, not at this time. The proposal has not been adequately evaluated, and a comprehensive infrastructure plan has not been adequately explored.

No, I don’t support increasing taxes. Missourians already pay too much. We need to keep taxes low to stimulate the economy. When people have more money to spend, more money circulates through and strengthens the economy. It has a reciprocal effect that leaves everyone with more purchasing power and brings in additional tax revenues, allowing the state to more effectively meet the needs of all Missourians. Low taxes stimulate the economy, while increasing taxes kills off economic growth.

Widening I-70 is crucial for Missouri’s future, and it should be MoDOT’s No. 1 statewide priority. Improving it is critical for Columbia and our entire state’s economic growth and, most importantly, for the safety of those who travel I-70. That said, I would not support a dedicated sales tax for that purpose at this time. We need to look at other options, such as public-private partnerships, tolling possibilities and other innovative proposals instead of an across-the-board sales tax.

I am not acquainted with Sen. Stouffer’s proposal but would be willing to study it. At this time, I would not support a tax increase for this purpose.

Would you support toll road construction in certain situations? If so, could you provide an example?

The Missouri Constitution prohibits public toll roads, and my belief is that voters are not ready to vote to amend the Constitution to approve toll roads. I filed bi-partisan legislation two years ago with Rep. Lanie Black (R – Charleston) to at least start a discussion about improving our roads, but it is probably not feasible at this time.

I’m typically against the idea of toll roads; it’s basically raising taxes, and I find toll roads inconvenient. Most of the damage on our highways is caused by big trucks that do not pay their fair share for our roads. I think we should look at requiring special truck plates for out-of-state trucks that pass through Missouri. Whatever we do, we must be careful not to make it so onerous to out-of-state trucks that it negatively impacts the revenues that those trucks produce in our state.

We have made great strides building smoother and safer highways in Missouri, but our highway system has many needs that will require innovative solutions. What we don’t need is another gas tax increase. Tolling might work, provided that tolls go for new or greatly improved highways. If voters approved tolling, I would make sure that tolls were paid by those traveling long distances, keeping the biggest burden off those using toll roads to commute or for other routine travel.

According to MoDOT, funding for roads and bridges is running short and will not be sufficient to make all repairs and improvements that are needed. In my opinion, MoDOT has done much better work in the past few years and has earned my confidence. I would rely on them for advice on how to continue with road improvements. While toll roads have been discussed, the idea doesn’t seem to have gained much traction. I would certainly be willing to listen to proposals on toll roads along with other ideas on how to keep our highways safe and in good repair.

Presuming it overcomes legal challenges, would you support legislation implementing Gov. Matt Blunt’s plan to sell Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority’s (MOHELA) loans?

Absolutely. I’ve supported it and worked for it and will continue to do so. In fact, the governor issued a press release thanking me for my support. It is the most feasible way in the current environment to fund facilities that are critical for world-class research. Unfortunately, the Republican House leadership killed the MOHELA plan last session when they refused to pass it unless universities accepted a funding freeze that would literally cripple higher education.

Absolutely. We’ve got to put MOHELA through. It will give us 10,000 high-paying research jobs that don’t exist today, and an $80 million income stream will enter local economy. It’s a critical investment in Missouri and really huge for Columbia. It’s important to Columbia because MOHELA solves the threat of the medical school moving to Kansas City. Then we can work on rebuilding the university hospital, which serves 88 of 114 counties in the state. The plan gives a billion dollars in tax-exempt state bonds for the MOHELA board to continue what it’s been doing for the past 20 years. The plan will offer $25 million dollars in scholarships for Missouri students. I would also like to add a job-training component with a stipend for the trainees to be attached to the building of the research facility.

From the beginning, I have supported the MOHELA plan and the almost $100 million in new investments it will bring to Columbia and Mizzou. It will bring the single greatest investment in state dollars that Columbia has ever seen, and the stakes are too high not to see it pass. This plan is a win-win for our universities, our students and our economy. In Jefferson City, I will continue to the lead the fight to make it a reality.

I would strongly support the sale of MOHELA loans to provide funding to colleges and universities for capital projects and substantial scholarships for students. If the bill passes in the General Assembly and the distribution of funds follows the governor’s recommendation, MU and the School of Medicine will be able to build facilities and attract world-class staff members. The resulting research and development will have a tremendous impact on the economy of this area.

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