A small group gathered Tuesday evening at the Pettis County Democrat Headquarters to discuss state issues with Kyle Garner, Democratic candidate for District 52 state representative.
District 52, which includes Sedalia, Knob Noster and Whiteman Air Force Base, is represented by state Rep. Nathan Beard, R-Sedalia, who is in his first term. Voters will decide between the two candidates in the Nov. 8 general election.
Garner has worked in a variety of jobs and is now attending law school at the University of Missouri. He said he and his wife both have “deep roots” in Missouri, which is part of the reason he chose to run for office. He frequently noted the need to change priorities in Jefferson City from lobbyists and political parties to citizen needs.
Garner’s first question was about what sets him apart from his Republican opponent. He offered two main points, the first being his “real world, life experience of being in the job market, knowing not just what the minimum wage is but what a minimum wage paycheck looks like. “
“The other thing that really sets me apart, we’ve talked about how the government has forgotten who they serve. It’s been two years that our current representative has been in office and as far as I can tell from knocking on doors and talking to people, he hasn’t gotten out to actually talk to the people he represents,” Garner said. “He doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of interest in doing the representative part of the job. … I’m running as a Democrat, but my first priority is representing the people of Sedalia who hired me.”
One of Garner’s main campaign platforms is his support of expanding Medicaid in Missouri. He was asked by an attendee how politicians can be opposed to various pieces of legislation that would help Missourians, such as Medicaid expansion.
“Right now we’re saying the Federal government will set the rules, we’ll just do what the Federal government wants; we won’t take responsibility as Missourians for our health care system. And also we won’t take our money back into the state,” Garner replied. “… I think it needs to be worked on in Federal, I think it needs to be adjusted and fixed — there’s lots of shortcomings with that policy — but talking at the state level, until they fix it at the Federal level we need to take that money back in and take control of our health care system.”
It seems Garner is ready to hit the ground running if elected in November, telling the audience he hopes to have two bills ready to pre-file by the Dec. 1 starting date for the next session.
The first is a bill to fix the state’s road funding.
“The (Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association), they pushed for a 4-cent gas tax increase this year, and with that 4 cents of gas tax that still brings us below the national average for the gasoline tax, but it would bring in … about $310 million into the highway budget,” Garner said. “… We’re not going to have the best roads in the nation with that money, but we’ll be on the right track to getting better roads.”
Garner added that increased infrastructure funding would in turn create additional jobs.
He later came back to the issue of infrastructure funding, noting that he is in favor of the 4-cent gas tax increase, and doesn’t like two other popular options, including adding toll roads on major state highways.
“(A toll road) unfairly puts the burden on people who drive a specific route. … They’ll pay way more of their fair share,” Garner said. “… The other option is a general sales tax instead of a gasoline tax. Again, I don’t really like that — if someone doesn’t drive or doesn’t drive that much, they’re still paying that sales tax. That’s not a fair way to assess the highway funding.”
His second proposed bill is regarding Medicaid expansion.
“It’s just common sense. You look around the country, there’s a couple different options in how you can do it,” Garner said. “… There’s a broad range of things we can do with Medicaid expansion, but the bottom line is we need to say ‘yes, we need to expand Medicaid, please give us our money back and we’ll take control of our own destiny as far as medical care goes in Missouri.’”
Another attendee asked about Garner’s position on increasing minimum wage. He replied by saying he’d like to see the state law that says cities cannot set their own minimum wage repealed, noting that different communities have different needs and that city government is the best entity to figure out those needs. He added that the state minimum wage should be higher than $7.50, but that the citizen-proposed rate of more than $15 is not needed in Missouri.
Garner also briefly touched on the issue of campaign finance limits, which he is in favor of, and requiring voter ID, which he is against.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.