POPLAR BLUFF, Mp. -- Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder kicked off a statewide listening tour Monday by speaking at the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce's quarterly luncheon at the Black River Coliseum. Rep. Todd Richardson also recapped his first year in the Missouri House.
Kinder, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, said he remembered being at the coliseum three years earlier when flooding struck the area.
"The hardy people of Butler County have always gotten through," he said.
He also described the area as "one of the shining examples" of economic advancement, but said statewide Missouri is falling behind.
"When we were growing up, our neighbor Tennessee was not ahead of us in anything," he said, adding then St. Louis was second in the U.S. auto industry only to Detroit.
Now, Kinder said, Missouri is ranked as having the third-worst job loss in 2010, only behind Nevada and New Jersey, and 270,000 Missourians cannot find work. He also said Missouri's unemployment rate has been at least 8.8 percent for 26 consecutive months. When President Barack Obama pushed the economic stimulus package in 2009, he said it would keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent, according to Kinder. However, by January 2010 it had risen to 8.9 percent in Missouri, and was at 9.1 percent at the beginning of 2011.
"Our governor refuses to stand up and refuses to ... lobby for Missouri," said Kinder, who is rumored to be considering a bid for governor in November 2012.
Kinder also discussed Proposition C, "the Health Care Freedom Act," which was passed by Missouri voters in August 2010.
"We wanted no part of the individual mandate [Obama has] for us, thank you very much," Kinder said. The act aims to block the federal insurance mandate portion of health care reform.
Kinder said Missouri was the first to pass such an act, and Butler County led the way with 85 percent approval of the ballot measure.
Nearly half the states in the country also have now joined his constitutional challenge of the "misbegotten federal health control law," Kinder said, adding the cost of the challenge is "privately funded."
"There is not a nickel of your taxpayer money in it," he said.
Kinder said the act would carry a $2,000 tax on any business of more than 50 employees that does not offer insurance. He said it creates a "disincentive" for small businesses to hire their 51st employee.
The matter is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Kinder also addressed local business growth, which he said is "the way out of this." He commended "the construction of two fine new hospitals in a town that really deserves them."
When asked about the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee potentially holding up hospital construction in Butler County, Kinder said the governor should have intervened to help the approval process along.
"That commission does not know better than the people of Poplar Bluff what you need," he said.
Richardson said he did not think a state agency's permission should have to be sought for a private project.
Kinder said certificate of need committees were formed in the 1970s under the direction of the federal government with the belief that hospitals should be run differently than other privately owned businesses. He served on Missouri's in the 1990s but said he often admitted he did not know better than locals whether a new hospital would benefit a community. Other states have since abolished the committees, Kinder said.
Sandy Wood said she understood a committee voting on whether a hospital would benefit a community, but not on its placement.
Kinder said the committee was then serving as a "super Poplar Bluff Planning and Zoning."
Black River Coliseum, Poplar Bluff, MO