JEFFERSON CITY - U.S. Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) is the incumbent in the third congressional district race. He previously served the ninth district before the 2010 Missouri census called for new district boundaries. A decrease in population means Missouri will lose a member of Congress this election cycle
Luetkemeyer is also a former state representative. After leaving that office, he was appointed director of the Missouri Division of Tourism. He currently serves on the House Financial Comittee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
KOMU 8 News sat down with Luetkemeyer as a part of the Smart Decision 2012 series.
What makes you the best qualified third congressional district representative?
"I think my record shows that I'm a really good fit for the district. I think my background with over 35 years in small business as a job creator... I think my 20 years in agricultural activities, raising cattle... I put myself through school that way, as well as continued to do that for a long time after I was married. I think if you look at the district, it's a small business agricultural oriented district. I think that my background lends itself perfectly to that sort of district. I think if you look at my record, how I have voted on issues and worked on issues, I think you could say they've been very effective... a very effective voice for the people. I think we're a good choice, we're very accessible. Our constituent work with our citizens in that regard is excellent so I think, you know, the people have shown over the last four years by their support of us that they appreciate what we've done, and we'll continue to do the great work that we're doing and hopefully we'll continue to address all the concerns of the folks."
What impact will redistricting and Missouri's loss of a congressional district have on the state in the long run?
"Well, obviously we lose an electoral vote and as a result we are just a little less significant from the standpoint of the national stage. Obviously we also lose a vote in Congress. On our side of the building, we have 435 votes and now, instead of nine, we only have eight. The voices of Missourians are not quite as effective as they were. You know, but we can't do anything about it. The census is what dictates that. We'll have to take the dictates of that and move on."
Jumping off of that, what challenges could you face representing new district boundaries, and how would you meet them?
"Well, most issues at the national level are not district specific. You know, we knew basically where the map was going to be for the last year, so we've been going out in the various new areas and trying to get to know the folks, and their issues, and their concerns and meeting with different groups. So, we have kind of a good feel of what their problems are and how they need to be addressed in Washington. Generally, probably 95-98 percent of the time, the issues are not necessarily district specific, so they're more state and national oriented. As a result, when it's a state specific issue, we as a delegation work very well together, and Democrats and Republicans, to support what we want to do with promoting our state. If it's a national issue, then obviously the political philosophy, however it comes down, we'll make a decision on how we'll support those issues."
What is the biggest problem Missouri faces going into the election?
"I think economics is the biggest problem. Jobs. You know, we in Missouri here have stagnated over the past several years. We're not growing. Obviously we lost a congressman over the lack of growth. The rest of the country is growing faster than we are. That's an obvious thing that happened. We lost jobs in this state. I think we're 49th or 50th or something like that in job creation in the country. We've got to get our economy going. When you do that, you generate the kind of economic activity and revenues it takes to run the state government. Right now obviously our state government has to go in and cut more out of the budget, cut more out of the budget. We have a state statute that says we have to balance the budget every year, so our legislators have to balance it and send it to the governor. He signs it, and off they go but if they had more revenue to work with there would be more dollars there to be able to spend for education or health care or roads or bridges, whatever. We've got plenty of needs. We just don't have revenues that could be generated by more jobs and economic activity in the state."
How would you work with the U.S. Senate and other members of Congress to solve economic problems?
"I think we do that on a regular basis. Again, we have almost monthly, every four to six weeks we have a meeting in DC there with Jo Ann Emerson who is now the senior member of the delegation. We have all of our members, both Democrats and Republicans, both representatives and senators all meet, as many of us as can get together anyway, and discuss what is specific to Missouri... how we can work on those issues together. Obviously, there's differences in opinions on certain issues, but we can find common ground on a lot of them. I think, beyond that, you look at what philiosopically you believe what is the best way to approach our economic problems. You think that the government needs more, higher taxes to make more revenue that way so they could come in, and with this present administration they'd like to dictate where those dollars go, or would you rather take the other approach, which is what I favor, which is to leave the money in the people's pockets. It's theirs to begin with. It's not the government's... and allow them to keep those dollars, and let them spread the money through the economy in a more even fashion. As a result, rising tide floats all boats. As a result, I believe our economy and our people are going to be much better off, and doing that, its shown in the past that when you cut taxes and leave money in people's pockets every time you raise more revenue. I think you can grow our economy to improve the revenue growth to the government. More importantly, I think you generate the jobs it takes to make this thing work. As I go around and talk to my citizens and businesses in my district, there's a lot of uncertainty out there with regards to how are we going to get past this problem of taxing, the regulatory policy and the trade policy of this current administration. It is a boot on the neck of our small business people. They're our real job creators, and they're standing there neutral right now because of the uncertainty of this administration. I can just go one business after another and a big problem is Obamacare. There's taxes, we have a great, burdensome tax rate right now, and the third problem is trade policy, which we don't enforce the trade laws, and as a result, if you're a manufacturer, you can't compete whenever the trade policy of this country allows other countries to come in and undercut your products at a non-competitive price. So we've got a lot of problems there, and I think those are the ways that we need to approach our economic problems, is look at those three areas. If you solve those problems, or minimize those problems, we could have the greatest workforce in the world. we have the greatest entrepreneurial spirit in the world. the rest of the world is watching us to see how we get out of this mess. If we can do what we've done in the past which is to grow or economy through the entrepreneurial way, we're going be just fine."
What should congress do about implementing the Affordable Care Act next year?
"Congress should repeal the act. That's the best way to help small businesses in this country. It's going to be, it's a trillion dollar tax increase, it's going to gut Medicare. You're looking at the unemployment rate rising by a million people. It's a non-starter as far as I'm concerned."
How would you bring more jobs to Missouri?
"I'm not the governor, and I'm not the legislature here in Missouri, so there's a limit to what I can do. I think the best way that I can help the business climate in this state that provides the jobs. Government does not create jobs. It's the business folks in this country that create the jobs. The best thing you can do is create a climate for those business folks, especially small business folks that entices them into investing their money, taking the risk that it takes to make a business work, and right now they're not doing it. If you go talk to them, as I said earlier, it's the regulatory policy, it's the trade policy, it's the taxing policy of this country. It's a boot on the neck of small business people. It's the thing that causes so much uncertainty. There's a lot of money sitting right now in the business community that's waiting to be invested. They're waiting to hire people. They're waiting to build a new building, or put a new line into the manufacturing plant, but they're not going to do it. With this current set of problems that they see there with the regulatory policy, trade policy and tax policy. The regulatory policy is just so cumbersome, they've had to hire extra people just to comply with the new rules and regulations. That's a cost that they have to incur that doesn't make them any money. When you hire new people just to comply with rules, it doesn't make you any money. So the rest of your employees have got to make that much more money for you to pay for these. That's a cost that they're not willing to bear, to continue to bear if this is the direction we're going to go. What happens is you have to raise the price of the products in order to be able to afford these extra people. When they do, their product and their service is non-competitive. Especially when you're looking at foreign countries that don't have to put up with the same rules and regulations and nonsense that our companies do. So, I think the best way that we can really ensure that we have good paying jobs in Missouri is to do something about the regulatory environment, the tax policy, the state and the trade policy to enhance the ability of these folks to invest their money, get a good return on it, hire all kinds of people that can then manufacture their products and services that they sell through their company.
What are missouri's biggest budget challenges and how would you meet them?
"Well, I think obviously Missouri's biggest budget challenge I alluded to a while ago is they don't have as many dollars as they'd like to do all the things that they'd like to do. I think it comes from a lack of economic development in the state that in my judgement has been stymied over the last several years here because there's not the job creating environment that is conducive for companies to come in and operate business. When was the last time that we had a major manufacturer or a major business located in Missouri versus how many big manufacturers or major companies have left the state. There's no comparison. The numbers are significantly in the wrong direction and why? Obviously the business climate in the state is not conducive to big business or manufacturers and even small businesses to come here and sell here. So we have to change the environment within which those jobs are created where there's tax policy, trade policy. Obviously, the state doesn't have anything to do with trade policy but the regulatory policy is another part of it. I think... part of it feeds from Washington. If you're looking to try and compare our state with other states, there is no comparison. We're at the bottom end of creating jobs when you look at other states when they're creating jobs. That should be the model of how we should structure our state government and our rules and regulations and polices here. Obviously, we haven't done it because we still are at the bottom of the job creators."
What would change once you've served a term in this office?
"I think that so much of that from the standpoint of the change that you could affect in Washington is guided more by the numbers of members of the House, numbers of members in the Senate and who sits in the White House. I think one of the things that I've been able to do as a member of the House in a majority party is be able to work with those members to enhance our ability to memorize rules and regulations that are onerous to our business folks. As most folks don't realize, I have a lot of water along and around my district. We've got the Mississippi River down one side and got the Missouri running through the middle of it. We've worked on a lot of river issues that are very important to the economic welfare of our state and our whole region here because of the importance of that river system, both river systems but I think the thing we can do most is to work within the framework there in Washington to make sure that we minimize the rules and regulations and lower taxes and get enforcement of trade rules in place. What we've done right now along the trade line is to work with our Missouri delegation. We were the ones that organized our group to meet with the customs folks which are the ones that enforce our trade laws and say, 'Hey look, we've got some folks here and some businesses here in Missouri that are being unfairly targeted by some of the, in this one particular situation, by the Chinese.' They're trying to come in and undercut the industry and dump the product here to undercut it and therefore drive our businesses out of business and then, of course, when the businesses are all gone and they don't dominate the market anymore, the Chinese dominate the market. They can raise their prices, and they own that particular industry. That's the kind of thing that we have to fight every day. It's just one example of the things that we've done and are going to have to continue to do to be able to help our businesses here in this state remain competitive and improve the business climate here."