CAPE GIRARDEAU - Republican incumbent Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder told KOMU 8 News he wants to build on his successes as an advocate for veterans and the elderly if he is elected to a third term.
The lieutenant governor is the state's second-highest ranking executive. According to the lieutenant governor's website, the person who holds this office sits on several boards and commissions, many dealing with economic issues. These groups, including the Board of Fund Commissioners, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission, control a number of tax credits. As part of reporters' interviews with the candidates, KOMU 8 News asked candidates their thoughts about the 2010 Missouri Tax Credit Review Commission Report, which contained several recommendations related to these credits. The lieutenant governor also serves as the chief advocate for the elderly and veterans. Finally, the lieutenant governor presides over the senate, votes to break ties in that chamber and most importantly of all, steps in as governor if the governor is unable to carry out his or her duties.
KOMU: So for starters, as lieutenant governor, you sit on a number of commissions and boards that control a number of tax credits. What are your overall thoughts on the 2010 Tax Credit Review Commission Report?
KINDER: I'm open to reasonable tax credit reform and have stated that on many occasions. I actually supported the tax credit reform proposal that was part of the economic development bill a little over a year ago that would have saved the state $150 million a year or $1.5 billion over the decade. I think tax credits, properly used, can be good, and should be used wisely, but if someone wants to come forward with reasonable reform proposals, I'm supportive of that.
KOMU: I'd like to talk about just a couple of those proposals. One of them was to, let me make sure I got my programs straight here, it was to lower the jobs threshold for the BUILD Program. What are your thoughts on that?
KINDER: Again, that seems reasonable to me. I would have to see the exact proposal in writing before taking a position on it. But it's a good debate for our state to have and one that we should tackle. But again, our chance was lost a little over a year ago on the economic development bill to have sound tax credit reform. That was a grand bargain that these two struggling sides had agreed to, and then with no leadership from the governor's office, it just fell apart. So it was disappointing.
KOMU: And then, lowering the value of the MDFB Infrastructure Credit from 50 percent to 35 percent?
KINDER: I am not prepared to discuss that in any detail because I haven't seen the proposal. The MDFB credits have worked well to this point. I chaired the MDFB for the better part of four years. But if someone wants to come forward with a reasonable proposal, I would be happy to look at it.
KOMU: Changing gears a little bit, what would you like to do to prevent another Mamtek?
KINDER: Well, I'd like for the governor to take the responsibility that he refused to do here. When he was asked about the subject, he said, "I don't run the Department of Economic Development." You know what? That's a far cry from a former Democratic leader from our state who said, "The Buck Stops Here." Harry Truman. The buck does stop on the governor's desk, and he is responsible for what his department heads do. And the Department of Economic Development failed Missourians, and this governor failed Missourians on Mamtek by failing to insist that their due diligence be done. This was preventable, and it has really badly hurt the city of Moberly to have this Mamtek fiasco, and they're going to be paying for it for years to come, and I would do it by stepping up and taking responsibility instead of shirking it as this governor has.
KOMU: How will you fight financial exploitation of the elderly, either through MOSAFE or other means?
KINDER: Yeah. We took the lead in instituting Project MOSAFE, which is Missourians Stopping Adult Financial Exploitation. This is an effort to educate the employees of banks and credit unions as to when the crime of financial exploitation of the elderly is occurring so that they're on their toes. They know what the red flags are. So if a 92-year-old Mrs. Jones is brought in by her 29-year-old next door neighbor to assist her in withdrawing $3,000 from her account and walking out with the cash, that the tellers and the employees of that institution need to know that crime is probably occurring. They need to inquire with some pointed question and perhaps contact another family member or a neighbor before that transaction goes through. I've been sounding the alarm and trying to educate folks with Project MOSAFE now for several years, and it's working well.
KOMU: Alright, so how would that carry over into a third term?
KINDER: We would carry it over by continuing to push and build on the success of Project MOSAFE and to work with prosecutors and try to educate prosecutors on the need to pursue the perpetrators of this crime, which is underreported.
KOMU: What changes do you think need to be made to MoRx, if any?
KINDER: I don't think any changes, because it's working well. When I came in, the MoRx plan had 17,000 Missourians on it. It was new. I chaired the board most of the last two terms, and we've had a more than tenfold, close to twelve-fold expansion in the number of Missourians on that to over 200,000 Missourians on that now, getting assistance through this wonderful MoRx program that assists the lowest-income seniors with their monthly prescription cost. That's one of the finest programs the state has ever offered, and I have seen no complaints about it, or even suggestions for reform.
KOMU: What are your top priorities for helping veterans?
KINDER: Well, I just had a success in which I did a statewide tour of the veterans' homes, when they were threatened with closure or major staff reductions. And I listened to all, to all of the residents at all of the veterans' homes, and also the staff. And I made a pledge to them about a year and a half ago, that no closures would occur on our watch, and that measure was fulfilled, that promise was fulfilled this year in the budget that was written and signed into law, that the funding for veterans' homes is secure. So I want to continue to fight for salary increases for the hardworking staffs at the veterans' homes and to build on my success at starting the Missouri Military Family Relief Fund, continuing to work with veterans and veterans' organizations all across our state.
KOMU: And building off of that, this summer, Governor Nixon signed House Bill 1680, expanded financial assistance, more on-the-job training, that sort of thing. What are some ideas you have to help implement that legislation?
KINDER: Well, I work with all comers, and folks with all parties, to make sure that we build on that success and do what's right by our veterans. I'm also interested in expanding assistance to the hiring of veterans. Other states have done a tax credit for businesses that hire returning vets, and I think we ought to pass that in the new session.
How much more do you have?
KOMU: Just a couple more.
KOMU: Do you believe the current number and resources of domestic violence centers is, are sufficient? And if not?
KINDER: I'm sure it's not. You know, the first problem of economics is scarcity. So we have scarce resources in government, we have scarce resources in any business. I'm sure that domestic violence centers could use more resources. And I've been involved as a board member of my local safe house for women in trying to meet these issues for decades now. Of course they could always use more resources. The state budget is strained, and we're probably doing all we can right now until we see a significant upturn in revenue. But I mean, you could ask that question about Mental Health, or Corrections, or anything else in state government and say, "Could you use more resources?" And the answer would be yes.
KOMU: How would your previous experience aid you in another term as lieutenant governor?
KINDER: Well, I'm the only candidate, the only officeholder, who has returned money unspent out of my office budget allocation every year that I've been in office. I have not just talked the talk of fiscal conservatism, I've walked the walk of fiscal conservatism. Lived within my means. Two years ago, I returned almost ten percent of my office budget unspent by tightening my belt in my office by reorganizing the office. Finding waste in any budget I've ever been in charge of and eliminating it. I would build on that success. I am also the only statewide elected official who, the last two budget years, has gone into the House budget-writing committee and said, "Send me less in the coming fiscal year than I had this year." I've done that two years in a row. So out of a declining office budget, declining at my request, because I've found a way to do more with less, I've still returned money unspent.
KOMU: Last question: What can you bring to this office that none of your opponents have?
KINDER: Experience, and that includes not only experience in the office and 97 percent plus rate of presiding over the senate, the constitutional duty of the lieutenant governor, but also service as acting governor. 105 days between 2005 and 2009, I was governor of this state, on the acting basis. Doing everything that a governor does, to include signing bills into law, making appointments to boards and commissions, calling out the National Guard to fight a flood, and discharging the duties of governor for more than 100 days. No other candidate in the race can say that. I did everything the governor did, does except live in the mansion and get flown around and driven around by the Highway Patrol, as I continued to do what I always do, which is drive myself around the state, and what I'm doing today.