State reps to debate issues at Wednesday forum

The forum will include candidates from the 23rd, 24th and 25th districts.

MU plans to hold a debate for state House candidates to discuss their opinions on key issues like the economy, state taxes, unemployment and higher education Wednesday.

In the 23rd district, Republican candidate Paul Szopa is taking on incumbent Democrat Stephen Webber; in the 24th district, Republican Laura Nauser is challenging incumbent Democrat Rep. Chris Kelly. Incumbent Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, is running unopposed for the 25th district.

In the 24th District, Kelly said the differentiating philosophies between him and Nauser were their views on how to pay for university funding.

“I believe that it is reasonable to fund the University of Missouri and the research and the education that goes on there,” Kelly said in an interview this week. “I believe that is a legitimate investment in our society and our future. The only way to do that is with tax revenue. I don’t believe that we can cut our way to an excellent university.”

Nauser, who currently represents the Fifth Ward in the Columbia City Council, said she believes there were wasted funds in the state and inefficiencies could be cut out of the budget.

“I believe that the government should be limited,” Nauser said, “I will bring the concept of smaller government to the state capitol; I believe that people solve problems, not government.”

Kelly would like to use funds from increased taxes on cigarettes to fund MU. He says it is important to note, though, he would put a proposed raise in cigarette taxes up to voters to pass.

“If it’s wrong to tax smokers, it’s wrong to tax smokers period, and we should abolish cigarette taxes,” he said. “But if it’s OK to tax them, then the only question becomes what is the appropriate level at which to tax them.”

Nauser said Kelly’s plan to allow voters to decide whether to approve of higher taxes on cigarettes is flawed.

“I do believe in people deciding things, but I have a concern: it’s easy for people to pass a tax on somebody else and not themselves,” Nauser said. “They are a minority in a sense, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that we are one of the lowest taxing states.”

Webber is running for re-election in the 23rd district against political newcomer Szopa. Webber’s website says he believes in investing in Missouri infrastructure to create jobs and stands for labor unions opposed to the “right-to-work” movement. Webber also supports gaining health care for all Missourians.

“All Missourians should have access to quality and affordable health care so they can care for their families and live a secure life,” he said on his website.

Szopa was campaigning late into the evening and was unavailable for comment.

Though she is running unopposed in the 25th District, Still said she still places importance on connecting with members in her district by going to debates and other public meetings as well as by remaining available via e-mail and telephone.

She believes funding for MU is one of the key issues facing Missouri at this time.

“We have to recognize the importance of education and support for education connected to the overall goal of growing an economy that’s going to be competitive in the future,” Still said.

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