COLUMBIA — Rumors of recession have been swirling through the country for months now, and whether they’re true or not, the economy is on voters’ minds.
With rising costs and a projected national budget deficit of $163 billion for fiscal year 2008, it’s not surprising. Read on to find out what candidates vying for Rep. Kenny Hulshof’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives suggest.
Democrats agreed that cutting expenditures was important. Several of them said they would begin by examining spending on the Iraq war, which has racked up a cost of more than $535 billion so far, according to the National Priorities Project, a research organization.
“If there was one expenditure that I think needs to be cut, it’s the war in Iraq, so that’d be the first place I would start,” former Sen. Ken Jacob said.
State Rep. Judy Baker also said the government’s expenditures in Iraq are out of control.
“When you start paying private companies’ employees more than our troops, there’s a problem,” she said.
But Baker said the government’s deficit spending is what has caused the economy’s downturn.
“We need to take a look at government spending on all levels. There is still a lot of discretionary spending that is probably irrational and unnecessary,” she said.
Former Public Service Commission chairman Steve Gaw said it was important to focus on investing in projects that would benefit the U.S. in the future, such as education.
“When we have roads and schools here that are deteriorating while we’re pouring money into rebuilding infrastructure in the Middle East, something’s wrong with that picture,” he said.
While spending on the Iraq war is the largest amount that could be cut, requiring that congressional earmarks be added earlier and include the name of the legislator’s name would decrease spending, said Jeremiah Levine, Gaw’s campaign manager. In addition, he said increasing regulation on oil speculators and giving states the option to drill offshore would immediately lower energy prices and in turn stimulate the economy.
Finally, Levine said it was important to give companies tax benefits for keeping jobs in the U.S., rather than for moving them offshore.
Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode said he would work to implement his Rebuild America plan, which would divert federal money to the states and counties for public works projects such as roads, bridges and building renovations.
“By creating the new jobs that would occur with the building of the new infrastructure, it would spur on the economy,” Bode said.
Balancing the federal budget would also be a priority, Bode said, citing Marion County’s balanced budgets during his 13 1/2 years as commissioner.
All the Republicans in the race hope to lower taxes, and all cited the economy as an extremely important issue.
St. Peters native Dan Bishir said he would look to overhaul the entire tax system, although he does not yet have a specific plan.
He said it is important to remind people that “we are OK.” He thinks the economic crisis can be fixed soon, especially with a hands-off approach from the government.
Former football player Brock Olivo of Columbia also stressed small government involvement.
“Small business is the backbone of our economy,” Olivo said, adding that the government should be giving business owners help without regulating them.
Former Missouri tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer of St. Elizabeth said he would lower taxes, which he said will increase government revenue. He would use the extra money to balance the budget. He said taxes discourage entrepreneurship and “suck money out of the economy.”
“The liberal Congress is out of touch with what really needs to be done,” Leutkemeyer said.
Luetkemeyer also said he plans to end Congressional earmarks, which he said take money away from things the government should be doing.
State Rep. Danie Moore, R-Fulton, said that as a member of the Budget Committee, she has experience dealing with hard economic times. She said she would “surgically” cut funding as she has done in the state legislature to ensure that programs not working are removed and that effective programs would stay.
Moore also said she would continue to cut, and not raise, taxes, as she has done in the state legislature.
“If people can take hard-earned dollars and invest them as they see fit, that is the wisest thing that we can do, because people know best how to spend their own money,” Moore said, adding that she thinks the best welfare program is “a good job.”
State Rep. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said he hopes to follow up with Hulshof’s work trying to get rid of the estate tax. Onder said he would also work to continue President Bush’s tax cuts.
The death tax is a big concern in the agricultural community of the Ninth District, Onder said.
“Farmers are particularly concerned that they will be forced to sell the family farm,” he said.
Libertarian candidate Tamara Millay said the best way to improve the economy would be to cut taxes and spending at all levels of government. That way, she said, individuals could choose to support certain programs on their own.
“There are so many things the government spends money on that we don’t need,” Millay said. “If people have money in their pockets, they will do more to support things they want to support.”