ST. CHARLES — With a scoop in one hand and a cup in the other, Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, doled out ice cream during an event hosted by Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder at the annual Republican Party Lincoln Days convention. After retiring from his ice cream post, Schaefer took a few minutes to spoon out his thoughts on state issues and the state of the Republican Party.
Gov. Jay Nixon held a meeting last week with Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Mayer and Majority Leader Kevin Engler.
Schaefer said he assumed the meeting centered around $300 million in federal dollars Nixon had included in his budget proposal that the U.S. Senate decided not to include in its jobs bill last week. House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-St. Louis County, confirmed Schaefer's assumption. He said he spoke to Mayer and no decisions were made about what to do if the money does not appear.
"I think what the General Assembly would like to know from the governor, is what his proposal is now that we're tasked with dealing with a budget he gave us that is clearly not in balance," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said the intention of a bill he sponsored to ban K2 and related substances is not an attempt to ban the flowers and leaves that make up the substance, but rather just to ban the spray applied to them.
"I think once people understand what it really is it's not quite as controversial as people think it is to ban it," he said.
Citing the Clemson University scientist who developed the spray, Schaefer said, "this is the guy that invented the substance who said 'you'd have to be a complete idiot to smoke this.' You know so that's kind of telling."
Schaefer said he expects his bill to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday.
Republican message of inclusion
Throughout the Lincoln Days event, Republicans' have stressed the party needs to be more inclusive. As a Republican representing a 52 percent Democratic district, Schaefer said his election is "absolutely" a sign that the party is beginning to grow.
"First of all, it's always important to have, you know, a candidate who represents their district," he said. "Maybe I do well in the district I'm in, maybe I wouldn't so well in southwest Missouri."
The key, Schaefer said, is for the party to begin embracing a broad base of constituents.
"The Republican Party is the party of individualism," he said. "That's a principal to be embraced and you got to then recognize not everyone is the same or always on the same page. But that's the strength of the party."
Bonds for capitol improvement
Last week, Republican leadership in the House decided to not bring to the floor a bill that would have put the possibility of the state issuing bonds for capitol improvement money on the November ballot. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Chris Kelly, R-Columbia. Schaefer, who sponsored a similar bill in the Senate last year, said he thinks the state is missing a prime opportunity.
According to Schaefer, a program in which the federal government will pay off part of the interest accrued on bonds expires at the end of the year. He said adding that to low interest rates and cheap construction costs, the time is perfect for the state to issue debt for construction programs that will eventually have to be done.
"You're never going to get cheaper money than right now, so do it now," he said.
Schaefer said some Republicans believe that being fiscally conservative means never borrowing money.
"You can still borrow money and be fiscally conservative, you just have to be smart about it," Schaefer said, making an analogy to home mortgages that carry low fixed-rate interest.
Those opposed to the bond issue admit that the capitol improvements will eventually have to be made, Schaefer said, adding that if the state waits to issue bonds it will have to do so at higher interest rates.
"How is that being more fiscally conservative? I don't understand," he said.