157th District candidates cite jobs, health care as top issues

Friday, July 23, 2010
Donna Lichtenegger

Candidates in the 157th District Republican primary said they are ready to go to Jefferson City and address the issues that affect the region and the state.

The district, which includes Jackson, northern Cape Girardeau County and all of Perry County except Perryville, is currently represented by Republican Scott Lipke, who will be stepping down to become a circuit judge.

Both Donna Lichtenegger and Gerald Adams said the district needs more jobs.

Lichtenegger, a 59-year-old retired dental hygienist from Jackson, said the way to create jobs is to eliminate the income tax and replace it with a consumption tax, also known as the Fair Tax. She said she has studied that tax system extensively and that states with the Fair Tax have seen positive results.

"It really does make a lot of sense. If you look at states where there's growth, they've changed their tax structure," she said.

Gerald Adams

Lichtenegger said that system is much more fair than the current one, where those earning money illegally did not pay income tax.

"People are really upset about how immigrants are costing us. They have to pay taxes under this. So do prostitutes, pimps and drug pushers," she said. She realizes there are concerns with what the tax will cost low-income citizens and said certain items, such as medication and school supplies, would be exempt from the tax. Also, she said qualifying individuals would receive a prebate to offset the cost of the tax.

Adams, a 58-year-old printer and school board member from Jackson, is not in complete support of abolishing the income tax but said the idea deserves consideration. However, he feels the best way to create and maintain jobs is to provide businesses the help they need to hire new employees. He thinks stimulus money received from the federal government should have been put to use to help with that.

"Employers are basically afraid that when the economy went south that hiring full-time employees might lead to layoffs. We missed the boat with stimulus funds. I think they maintained some jobs, but I don't think they added jobs. If they had used just a little bit of that to help with that first year's salary with that employee, they maybe could have hired four or five employees," he said. He would also like to investigate tax credits and see which ones should be eliminated to provide more money for general revenue.

Both candidates think the health care needs of the district should be better met. Adams said making government more effective would help.

"The state government has to be more efficient and streamlined. That will end up with having more revenue for projects like health care. Being an ex-farmer, businessman and working with the school board budgets, I've had to continually streamline and be more efficient. State government probably hasn't done that over the years, and I think that is something they should really work on," he said.

Lichtenegger said access to more health care professionals and reducing waste in Medicaid are the best ways to improve the accessibility and affordability of health care. She said people in the 157th frequently travel to St. Louis for cheaper health care because their doctors are not as overworked as the ones in Cape Girardeau and Perry counties.

"We have to have more nursing professionals. We have to have more nursing programs. We need to offer dental schools. We need to get more doctors into the system. This is a regional health care area," she said.

She said doctors, nurses and auxiliary health care workers need better access to schools and lower student loan rates.

She also said abuse in the Medicaid system and its recipients who use drugs and alcohol can negatively affect the entire health care system. To help prevent that, she would like to see mandatory drug testing for recipients when they start receiving Medicaid and then randomly for as long as they are program participants. She said private businesses have been doing that for years.

Another issue facing the candidates is combating the negativity of partisan politics in Jefferson City. Both agree that more needs to be done to foster cooperation across the aisle.

"What means a lot to me is good politics. We need to stop playing games. We have got to start listening to each other. There is always common ground. You have to be able to listen. There may be a thought there," Lichtenegger said.

Adams said his background speaks for his ability to work with all types of people.

"I am not a career politician, I don't make promises I can't keep. I don't have any ties to anybody in Jeff City. I have no problem with working with Democrats, independents or Republicans. Whatever is in the best interest for the state of Missouri is what we should be doing. I don't care whose idea it is," he said.

Both Adams and Lichtenegger live in Jackson but say they can meet the needs of both counties in the district.

Adams said as a former dairy farmer he is sensitive to needs of rural Perry County. Lichtenegger said she started her career in Perry County and has family in the area. She also said she plans on having monthly meetings for all of her constituents.

Cape Girardeau County Republican Party chairman John Voss said he will not endorse either candidate in the Aug. 3 primary and that he is comfortable with either Lichtenegger or Adams.

"The people of the 157th will be represented well with either candidate. It will be a close race and a tough choice. They are both good people," he said.

Phone calls made to Perry County Republican committee members were not returned.

According to the Missouri secretary of state's website, the Democratic Party does not have a candidate in the 157th District primary. Jennifer Friedrich of St. Mary is running unopposed on the Constitution Party ticket.



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