By Dennis Rich
Democrat Managing Editor
Most eastern Pettis County voters are now a part of the newly drawn Missouri House of Representatives District 48, a large rural district with two candidates vying for the open seat.
The district, which includes the city of Smithton and portions of the Heath’s Creek, Bowling Green and Longwood political subdivisions. The district also includes portions of Cooper, Howard, Saline, Chariton and Randolph counties. Voters will decide between Democrat Ron Monnig and Republican Dave Muntzel on Tuesday.
Monnig, of Slater, is a retired manufacturer, small business owner and eight-term incumbent on the Slater City Council.
In addition to his experience on the city council, he is a current member and past president of the Missouri Municipal League, which advocates on behalf of cities and municipalities in Jefferson City. He said he believes his combination of governmental and legislative experience will be of benefit to citizens of the district and wants to work on behalf of rural Missouri.
“I think that background is important. I have worked with people from all over the state and very different
backgrounds. We need more of that in Jefferson City. We need to start talking and working together and forget the partisan politics,” Monnig said.
In addition to gridlock, Monnig said he believes the concerns of rural Missouri are being shortchanged by lawmakers and points to issue such as the redrawn district map as an example.
“The 48th District is one of the largest districts in the state, but there is no single, complete county in the whole district. I believe it is a concerted effort to lessen the impact any one community or county in rural Missouri can have. I intend to be a strong advocate for rural Missouri,” Monnig said.
He also expressed frustration with state lawmakers using the legislature to “try and make a point to Washington, D.C.”
“I think people need to go down there and take care of state business. That is what this position is about, running state government,” Monnig said. “If you want to send a message to Washington, D.C., run for Congress or the U.S. Senate and if you are so worried about how the cities and counties are run, then run for city council or county commission. If not, go down there and do your job.”
He cited the battle earlier this year over use tax legislation vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon and allowed to stand by the Republican-controlled legislature which prevents communities from collecting sales taxes on motor vehicles bought out-of-state, and the choice by the legislature to take a pass on some $50 million in federal dollars that could have been used to update computer systems in the Missouri Department of Social Services as examples of legislative moves that ultimately harm residents of the state.
“Over the last two years the legislature has turned down $230 million in federal money, our tax dollars, because they were trying to make a point to Washington D.C.,” Monnig said. “Along that line, there were 335 bills filed this year that would have a direct impact on municipalities, 90 percent of them would have a negative impact. It goes back to turning down federal funds and trying to micro-manage cities and counties,” Monnig said.
Along with partisan politics, Monnig said there are “1,006 registered paid lobbyists in Jefferson City” and believes the average person’s concern is drowned out by influence peddlers and when budget cuts have to be made “they ultimately end up hurting the most vulnerable people.”
“Last year they were talking about cutting funding to the blind. We are better than that,” he said. “I want to go down there and be a lobbyist for the citizens of the 48th District.”
He cited education and job creation as his other main concerns, if elected, and wants to look for ways to fully fund the school foundation formula and control the costs of college tuition.
“We need to concentrate on education. That is our future. If we don’t teach our children and give them a quality education we are not fulfilling the promise and heritage we were given,” Monnig said.
Muntzel is a farmer who formerly worked as a livestock feed salesman, as well as 12 years with Missouri Farm Bureau Insurance Services. He describes himself as a strong conservative who is “pro-life and pro-gun.”
He holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration and continues to work his family farm south of Boonville. He said he wants to go to Jefferson City to be a conservative voice who can champion small business and help encourage economic development.
“The main reason I decided to run was a concern about representing the people in and around the 48th District with conservative common sense values and taking those concepts to Jefferson City,” Muntzel said. “It has always been a concern of mine that the citizens have a good contact in Jefferson City and my ear will always be open to their ideas and concerns.”
Although he believes the state has done a better job of managing its money since the economic downturn began, he said more should be done to “control runaway spending” and would push for lower taxes and fewer regulations on businesses.
“We have to help these small businesses and our corporations to enable them to be more profitable and grow and create more jobs,” Muntzel said.
He said he believes “people and businesses are taxed too much already” and believes that expanding the tax base by getting people back to work is the only way to increase state tax revenues.
Additionally, he said federal government regulations are putting increasing burden on businesses in the state and hampering economic development.
“We can increase revenues by reducing regulations from the federal government so they don’t mandate that we spend certain dollars here in the state of Missouri. We should let Missouri decide how we spend those dollars instead of through mandates from Washington, D.C.,” Muntzel said.
He cited education as “one of the first and main concerns” and believes the state should look at a range of issues that could help improve the quality of schools throughout Missouri.
Noting that his wife, Anne, is a retired school teacher in Sedalia, he said the state should look closely at altering the tenure system and replacing it with a merit-based system.
“I think merit is a much better system than tenure,” Muntzel said. “It gets down to how any business operates — how you deal with a person doing a good job versus one that is not. A merit system will improve the quality of our education system.”
He said he also believes “parents need to take more responsibility in preparing their children prior to sending them to school.”
However, he said he would be unlikely to support proposed school voucher programs, believing that while such programs may benefit students in urban and suburban districts that have multiple options if they are not interested in attending their home-district school, they could ultimately hurt rural districts by siphoning off needed revenues.
“I don’t think vouchers statewide is fair for the more than 500 school districts. In the cities it is OK, but it is not really fair to those districts outside Kansas City and St. Louis,” Muntzel said.