State rep hopefuls talk taxes, education

Sunday, June 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:34 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

At the weekly meeting of the Boone County Muleskinners Friday, the Democratic candidates for the 25th District state representative seat met for a panel debate in the spirit of communication and collaboration.

Candidates Judy Baker, Mike Blum, Russel P. Breyfogle Jr., D. Duane Dimmitt and Lara Underwood were each given three minutes for opening remarks.

Baker addressed the complexity of state issues and the severity of budget shortfalls while Blum referred to himself as a “legal advocate for the state” who can bring “the unique combination of a blue collar background and real legal work.” His remarks focused on the needs of the small business community.

Using a chart to demonstrate the breakdown of state and local taxes, Breyfogle explained the need for redistribution. He said that the bottom 20 percent of the population , making less than $15,000, pays 9.9 percent of their income in taxes. By comparison, the people in the top 1 percent, making $271,000 or more, pay only 5.3 percent of their income in taxes.

Dimmitt spoke briefly about the importance of a stable home environment and of restoring the dignity of seniors by “fully funding the senior Rx program,” and Underwood detailed her experience with domestic violence projects raising the status of Missouri women.

Each candidate was then asked to provide civic ideas about ways to improve education in Missouri.

Dimmitt suggested the state consider rejecting federal funding for education. Doing so would release the state from committing to the No Child Left Behind Act. “We only receive 7 percent from federal funding,” he said. “That’s not a huge percent to make up. Teachers wouldn’t have to teach to a standardized test.”

Underwood agreed with Dimmitt’s proposal that it might be worth looking into. “With the hoops that they’re making us jump through … we’re having to lower our standards to get federal funding,” she said.

Baker’s message settled on the recruitment and retention of teachers. “Nearly one-third of our teachers have served less than five years; we have sent them the wrong message about how we value education,” Baker said. Baker also advocated pulling education funding back to the state level and away from the local level to limit the disparity in access to quality education.

One issue all candidates agreed on was their opposition to the constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. When asked to respond either for or against the amendment, answers ranged from “opposed” and “adamantly opposed” to “vociferously opposed.”

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