VOTERS GUIDE 2012: Missouri House candidates debate I-70, health care

Monday, September 17, 2012 | 9:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:13 a.m. CDT, Monday, September 17, 2012

Editor's note: This story originally published in advance of the August primary. It has been edited to include responses from the candidates who will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.

COLUMBIA — State House primary election candidates debated Missouri's role in the federal health care ruling and the future of Interstate 70 at the League of Women Voters Forum July 12 at the Columbia Public Library.

All the candidates called for more jobs and economic growth, but the issues of what to do with Missouri's aging I-70 and the federal health care law led the discussion.

Implementation of the federal health care law

Both candidates for the 44th District said they opposed the Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

  • Musician and social networking company founder Caleb Rowden pointed to the potential increased Medicaid costs to the states as his reason to oppose to the law.

John Wright, a small business owner, running as a Democrat in the 47th District, said the health care debate was now settled by the Supreme Court's ruling and that further changes to the law needed to occur at the federal level. 

  • Wright said his opinion "doesn't much matter" because of the Supreme Court ruling.

Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature rejected a $50 million grant to upgrade the state's Medicaid computer system out of concerns the money would be used to implement a health exchange, as mandated by the federal health care law. 

Missouri also faces a decision of whether to accept billions of dollars from the federal government to expand the state's Medicaid program. The federal government would pay for the expanded program for the first three years and then Missouri would have to start contributing. 

Future of Interstate 70

Despite disagreeing on how the state should deal with the federal health care law, all of the candidates sided similarly on how to approach one of Missouri's major transportation routes: Interstate 70.

The candidates in both races said the state should explore options other than the implementation of toll roads. The Missouri Department of Transportation suggested such an option to lawmakers during this past legislative session.

  • Rowden also said multiple options had to be looked at, including a private-public partnership or a sales tax increase.
  • Wright said additional forms of producing revenue, such as an Internet sales tax or an increased gasoline tax, would help provide funds for improving I-70.

Even though the state Senate held numerous hearings about the implementation of a toll road system, lawmakers could not come to a  consensus during the 2012 legislative session. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon said he would not support a toll road unless approved by Missouri voters.

Campaign finance and ethics

Thecandidates also discussed proposals for campaign finance and ethics legislation. The candidates for the 47th District called for limits on individual campaign contributions while Rowden called for more transparency and disclosure in the current system.

Missouri currently does not have limits on campaign contributions, and this year the state Supreme Court tossed out a 2010 ethics bill that increased contribution disclosure requirements.

Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.


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