COLUMBIA — The state budget, the fair tax and abortion were among issues discussed Wednesday by Missouri House of Representatives candidates of the 21st and 24th districts at a forum sponsored by the local League of Women Voters organization.
The first debate featured 24th District State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, and Fifth Ward city councilwoman Laura Nauser, R-Columbia.
After being asked about her views on abortion by an audience member, Nauser recalled a personal incident that impacted her anti-abortion ideology.
“When I was a young single woman, I faced that decision,” she said. “I now have a 27-year-old daughter. I made it all the way to the hospital until I changed my mind, and to this day I think about the decision I almost made.”
Kelly said he supported a woman’s right to choose.
“I believe that the Supreme Court made the correct finding that a woman has a constitutional right to privacy, and that right extends to the control of her own biological destiny,” he said.
Both candidates were also asked questions about their campaign priorities and the state’s budget. Kelly said his biggest priorities were economic development — particularly capital improvements for higher education and roads — the construction of an overpass near the Columbia Regional Airport and the preparation of the new state budget.
Nauser said her priorities included the budget and economic development. She said she also wants to look through corporate tax credits to see which ones were most effective.
“I believe the way that we are going to get out of the budget crisis is to provide jobs and economic opportunity," she said. "Higher education is another key to providing economic stability."
Kelly said economic growth alone could not end the state’s financial problems.
“We cannot continue to treat this university simply as if it is some sausage factory," he said. "It is the economic future of Missouri. ... We are tearing the core of this institution by failing to fund it.”
Kelly proposed a potential cigarette tax as a way to increase state revenue.
The candidates for the 21st District, John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, and Kelly Schultz, D-Shaw, spoke about the fair tax as well as their their top campaign priorities.
Schultz discussed the importance of being available for constituents, mentioning that she has provided her cell phone number on the radio and while campaigning door-to-door so that people can contact her with concerns.
Cauthorn said the economy's shift away from manufacturing and production was partially responsible for the country's recent recession.
“I think that we need to make the decision to buy products made in the United States and buy cars made in the United States," he said. "We need to buy American-made products. It will help us with our jobs and infrastructure.”
When asked about the fair tax, Cauthorn said the system of taxation should be decided at the federal level rather than the state level. He said he believed the fair tax would have a negative impact on St. Louis and Kansas City because they are both near Missouri’s state borders.
Schultz opposed the fair taxes.
“In order for the fair tax to work, we would have to increase sales tax on medical costs, prescription medicine and food," she said. "I don’t think anyone wants to do that."
Cauthorn said his top priorities included job creation and rebuilding infrastructure.
“My economic philosophy is that we either need to mine it, grow it or produce it, and get our people back to work,” he said.
Schultz said her top three priorities were the economy, education and the state budget.
“We need to make sure that our school districts have the resources to meet every child’s needs,” she said, adding that public education could be improved by keeping qualified teachers in public schools, preserving small class sizes and implementing technology so students can be competitive in the workplace.
Paul Szopa, R-Columbia, the challenger in the 23rd District, was not present at the forum, and incumbent state Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, was introduced to the audience but did not participate in the debate.