Candidates for state representative races lobby for votes

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

When Laverne Nothdurft goes to the polls Nov. 7, she has a better idea of which Missouri House of Representative candidate she'll vote for.

The retired Sears assistant service manager attended an informational forum sponsored by the Cape Girardeau County AARP on Monday. Candidates in the Missouri House 158th district race, incumbent Nathan Cooper and Matt Hill, and 159th district race, incumbent Billy Pat Wright and Boyce Wooley, met with about 35 retirees at their monthly meeting.

Nothdurft, who lives near Whitewater, will vote for a candidate who will support local school boards' decisions on how to spend their money.

Gov. Matt Blunt advocated last November a proposal that would require school districts to spend at least 65 percent of their budgets on classroom instruction.

"I think local authority should be able to determine how to fund their schools. The state should oversee how the school boards are spending their money, and if they aren't doing it properly, then the state should intervene," said Nothdurft, who will vote for a 159th district candidate.

Both Democratic candidates believe local school boards should decide how their money is spent. "School boards are there for a reason. They have a better idea of how to spend their money than the lawmakers in Jefferson City," Hill said.

Say from school boards

Wooley, a former teacher and coach in Dexter, agreed that school boards should have the final decision on how to budget their funds. "Down in Gideon, Mo., they didn't spend 65 percent of their budget in the classroom, and they just received a national award for how well their students are doing in accordance with the state's assessments," he said.

Cooper said that in St. Louis, many schools are failing in part because less than 65 percent -- about 58 percent -- of funding is spent in the classroom. "Any way we can bring more money into our classroom is important," he said.

For retiree Tom Wiginton of Jackson, issues affecting older citizens and those living on fixed incomes were important.

"There were issues that didn't get addressed today, that need to be addressed. It was rather difficult, in the short time we had, to do that," he said.

Another issue brought up by the retirees was an additional tax on alcohol, similar to the tobacco tax on the Nov. 7 ballot that would raise the state's 17-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to 97 cents.

Wright said that an additional tax on alcohol has been discussed, and there's a possibility the legislature could explore the issue.

Hill said if voters want an additional tax on alcohol, then it should be addressed.

But Cooper said the state has a "spending problem, not a taxing problem."

Last year the state spent $21 billion, Cooper said. "We have money to spend, we just have to find ways to spend it efficiently. If people of Missouri want higher taxes on items, that's fine. I do not support higher taxes," he said.

Nothdurft wouldn't discuss who she will vote for in November but was impressed with each of the candidates. "They are all very knowledgeable. I think they will represent the community well," she said.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: