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      10/28/2004  

 

 

 

 

 

Blunt states his case in race for Missouri governor

by Bill O'Malley
Contributing writer

“If you want to see our state government move in a new direction on economic development, job creation, education, and providing better access to health care, then I ask for your vote,” Republican candidate for governor Matt Blunt said in an interview with The Landmark this week.

“If you’re satisfied with our state government today. . .you should vote for my opponent” he added.

Blunt, who currently serves as Missouri’s Secretary of State, will face Missouri Auditor Claire McCaskill in Tuesday's gubernatorial election.

The current administration has not received high marks on many of the pivotal issues that matter most to voters: The school funding formula needs to be addressed; the job base has eroded; Missouri roads are ranked as the third worst in the nation; and the state’s health care industry is considered by industry experts to be in crisis, as doctors are picking up their practices to move to the refuge of other states with protections against frivolous lawsuits and hospitals and trauma centers are closing.

The state’s performance under Governor Bob Holden led Missouri Democrats to reject their current governor in convincing fashion in favor of McCaskill for the Democratic nomination for governor. It is the only time in the history of the state that a sitting governor has been ousted in the primary.

But Blunt challenges voters to find any substantive differences between McCaskill and Holden.

"I think there are differences in style but no differences in substance.
You’d be hard pressed to find public policy issues where Auditor McCaskill has a different position than the current governor,” Blunt said.

"My opponent is attached to the failed policies of the past,” he added.

"On the issues that are important to Missourians, there are significant
differences between me and my opponent,” Blunt said.

But of all the differences that divide the two candidates, Blunt cites one as being the critical distinction: “When I ran for secretary of state,
there were very specific things that I said we would do. We did those
things” Blunt said.

McCaskill also made very specific promises when she was first elected as state auditor. Blunt maintains that she made no real effort to keep her
promises.

Blunt has repeatedly challenged McCaskill to release her tax records and those of her husband, millionaire developer Joe Shepard. McCaskill has released a limited financial disclosure but has refused to release the couple’s taxes.
"I think Missourians need to be concerned,” Blunt said. “The vast wealth that she and her husband have come from our tax dollars,” he continued.

He explained that it is important to gain a full understanding of what
potential conflicts might exist as he alleged that the family has received
tens of millions of dollars from taxpayer sources.

Among their differences on public policy, Blunt referenced McCaskill’s public opposition to the marriage protection amendment. The amendment reserved marriage as being between one man and one woman. It was passed in the August primary by more than 70% of Missouri voters.

He also notes that McCaskill voted for more than $1 billion in new taxes while she served in the state legislature and her support of Holden’s vetoes of two bipartisan bills to enact litigation and medical malpractice reform
in Missouri. The bills would have reduced the statutory limits on damages.

Supporters said the legislation would have curbed frivolous lawsuits.

While the differences between the two gubernatorial candidates are vast, one criticism from Blunt’s opponent does not center on his politics, but rather his age. Blunt, who is 33, welcomes a discussion on his experience versus that of McCaskill, who is 51. He, however, casually brushed aside the refrain of his detractors who say that he is not ready to assume the state’s highest elected position because of his age.

"You know, when it comes to governors, age is not a good indicator. Kit Bond was younger than me when he was first elected governor. He was an effective governor. Governor Holden is older than Auditor McCaskill and myself, and he has not been an effective governor,” Blunt said.

Blunt feels that the depth and diversity of his experience has given him the leadership skills and perspective to lead Missouri. He finds a hubristic arrogance in the intimation that the only experience that matters is holding elected office.

“It’s not about our experience on a state payroll,” he retorted.

Upon graduating from the United States Naval Academy, Blunt entered the armed forces where he served as a naval officer. After leaving active duty, he worked for a small business and was elected to the state legislature and the secretary of state’s office by convincing majorities.

He said that he was privileged to represent the values and views of his
constituents in the state legislature and that he was proud of his
accomplishments to enact meaningful election reform on a bipartisan basis as secretary of state.

"All elections since I’ve been elected secretary of state have been free of the fraud and disenfranchisement that occurred before I became secretary of state,” Blunt cited as his proudest accomplishment in office.

If elected, Blunt said his first order of business would be “making
education the number one public policy position and budget priority in the state.” He said that he would immediately go to work to fix the school funding formula even before taking the oath of office.

Blunt has pledged to never return fewer dollars to Missouri classrooms than the previous year. He also promised to end the improper diversion of
gambling proceeds away from schools. McCaskill voted to redirect lottery proceeds while in the legislature.

Blunt also indicated that it was “important to change our entrepreneurial climate.”

The United States Chamber of Commerce has ranked Missouri as one of the worst states as far as business legal climates, with a ranking of 41.

"My administration will do things that reduce the costs of being an
entrepreneur and job creator in Missouri” Blunt promised. His economic
development plan centers on litigation, tax, workers’ compensation, and
regulatory reforms.

Most groups that were formed to promote economic development and job creation like the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and Associated Industries of Missouri took a long hard look at both candidates and endorsed his candidacy. Blunt remarked that these are the primary organizations in Missouri that champion policies
to foster a climate that nourishes the entrepreneurial spirit.

Blunt recognized, “Kansas City has been particularly hard hit by job loss. The rapid growth in Kansas has been created at the detriment of Kansas City.

"We need to be concerned about the loss of doctors to Kansas,” Blunt said.

He added that enacting medical malpractice reform is one of the most
important issues facing the state “because there are Missourians who are finding it difficult to find doctors.” He referenced an inquiry by the American Medical Association that lists Missouri as one of 18 “crisis states."

He said that doctors are leaving Missouri and going to greener pastures where the laws are on the side of health care providers instead of the trial attorneys. “I am committed to correcting that” he says.

"This is about ensuring better access to health care, not a governor who is beholden to trial attorneys,” he added. His comment referenced the fact that McCaskill and the Democratic Party have accepted more than $3 million dollars in contributions from trial attorneys.

The federal government has a standard of ranking our nation’s roads and they have graded Missouri as having the third worst roads in the nation. Blunt said “It has a negative impact on economic development, productivity, tourism .”

Amendment 3 will also be on the ballot next Tuesday. It will
constitutionally mandate that all proceeds from the state’s gas tax be
required to go to the Missouri Department of Transportation. While he
supports the amendment, Blunt said that “it’s not necessary.”

Blunt explained that the proceeds from the gas tax were already required to go to the roads but that they have been diverted to other state departments.

Voters were promised that these dollars would go to the roads when the tax was passed. He has been critical of McCaskill for using these funds in her office until she decided to run for governor.

"The first budget that I submit to the legislature is going to show that I’m serious about ending a very inappropriate diversion of funds,” Blunt said.

Blunt also advocates strengthening Missouri’s Sunshine Law, requiring open meetings. He wants to ensure that the laws are strictly enforced and that there are real penalties to those who violate the requirements.

 

 

 
 

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