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Candidates for state office speak at forum
All five state representative candidates in the 157th and 158th districts oppose the tobacco tax measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.
At a candidates' forum Thursday, they questioned how the money would be spent and said they opposed new taxes.
Proposition A on the ballot would raise taxes on cigarettes to 72 cents a pack from the current 17 cents and raise other tobacco taxes by 20 percent. Supporters say most of the money would go to health-care programs.
The candidates spoke at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Southeast Missouri and Southeast Missouri State University.
Candidates were asked questions by Glen Williams, an assistant professor in the communication department. The questions included positions on gun control, abortion and health care. The candidates agreed on most of the issues.
Fewer than 30 people turned out for the forum, held in Dempster Hall's Glenn Auditorium. The forum, which lasted about 90 minutes, was taped for later broadcast on cable access channel 5.
In the 157th District made up of Cape Girardeau and Perry counties, Republican Scott Lipke of Jackson, Democrat Chuck Miller of Oriole, Mo., and Libertarian Tim Doubledee of Jackson are seeking to succeed state Rep. David Schwab who is retiring due to term limits.
In the 158th District, which is the city of Cape Girardeau, incumbent Republican Jason Crowell is opposed by Libertarian C. Darby Ulery, a school teacher.
Ulery said she's running to give people a choice rather than face an uncontested election.
She wants proportional representation -- where legislative seats are awarded by the percentage of votes a political party gets.
"People are dissatisfied with the democratic process itself," she said.
All three candidates in the 157th District race say the Missouri Department of Transportation lacks credibility with the public and needs to do a better job with spending the money it has.
Doubledee, an insurance agent, said increasing the tobacco tax won't stop people from smoking. "You end up with a black market on these things," he said.
Smokers already bypass state taxes on cigarettes by buying them over the Internet, he said.
Lipke, an assistant prosecuting attorney, said lawmakers need to look at controlling state spending.
Miller, who is retired from Procter & Gamble and runs a small auction business, said he isn't certain how the tobacco money would be spent.
But Miller said the most urgent need in the state is health care for the elderly and lowering prescription drug costs for the elderly.
Doubledee said government is part of the problem. He favors reducing government regulations in health care and in private industry in general.
Lipke said the most urgent needs are budgetary. The state needs to control spending, and eliminate waste and fraud in the spending of tax dollars, he said.
Candidates also discussed tax-increment financing, which has become an issue in Cape Girardeau in recent months due to a proposal to build a high-priced subdivision around the Dalhousie golf course. The TIF money would come from diverting tax revenue. Doubledee said it is hard to support such a tax incentive program. Doubledee said he would prefer to eliminate corporate taxes.
Lipke and Miller said they favor tax breaks for some developments, but not others. Miller said he opposes using tax increment financing for a golf course.
Both Crowell and Ulery oppose burdensome government regulations.
"We need sensible controls of state spending," she said.
Crowell said state regulations, including workers' compensation rules, have crippled businesses and made it difficult for Missouri to attract new industry.
"Sixty-one thousand jobs walked out of the state of Missouri last year," Crowell said.
Neither Crowell nor Ulery favor building a new baseball stadium for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Republican lawmaker flatly opposes state funding for the project. Ulery said she opposes more taxes.
335-6611, extension 123