Smart Decision 2012: Thomas Minihan, Democrat for State Representative District 60
JEFFERSON CITY- Democrat Thomas Minihan has spent the last few months leading up to this year's election campaigning for a seat in the Missouri legislature. Minihan is looking to represent Distinct 60 serving the Jefferson City area.
Minihan has been a Jefferson City resident since 1976. He studied history and political science at Lincoln University. Minihan graduated with a bachelor's degree in history in 2007. Minihan is a retired railroad conductor. He spent 25 years working for Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad.
Here is the full transcript of Minihan's interview with KOMU 8 reporter Nichole Cartmell.
Cartmell: Why did you decide to run?
Minihan: Well I through my hat in the ring on the last day you could file because I saw that nobody else had filed and I do believe elections matter. So had I not filed the person that has been pretending to be our representative for the past two years would've been handed the position on a silver platter.
Cartmell: So you just decided to run against him then?
Minihan: First, your question was about filing so I filed simply so I could have someone to vote for, and not leave it blank. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that the you know, it takes citizen involvement. So I may be just a retired railroad guy, but I am sure I can represent the interests of the 60th district as well as my opponent, if not better because I'm going to have a keener ear to what their wishes are as opposed to the lobbyists and the big money of the people at the capitol.
Cartmell: What would be your biggest goal as a representative?
Minihan: To have the voice of the people heard in the state capitol and to represent the constituency of the 60th district.
Cartmell: How would you like to do that then?
Minihan: There is a number of ways I would like to do it. It all revolves around citizen involvement. I would like to get everyone engaged because the thing is, I've learned a lot from my campaign going from door to door talking to the voters. And I have come to realize the problem may begin with the politicians who promise to fix everything but it ultimately rests with us, the citizenry. We've got to get involved. We've got to be a participant in our democracy if we expect it to fill our needs and to help us achieve a satisfactory life, and make a better life for the people who come behind us.
Cartmell: What type of issues would you like to address if you were to be elected as representative?
Minihan: The issues that the constituents bring to me. Primarily, in my door-to-door activity the number one thing has been these political calls. They are almost, without a person there, disgusted by all of these political phone calls even though they are on the no call list. I would venture to guess that, that political no call list is something they are unwilling to look at but I will speak out loud for the constituency in the 60th district. The 60th district composes mostly of employees of the state so they will be my concern as well. The constituents, the constituents, the constituents, the constituents, as in business they say location, location, location.
Cartmell: So then what are some of these issues that they have brought forth to you that your constituency would like you to address?
Minihan: That's the number one issue is that the no call list was something, I don't know how it came about but Jay Nixon was attorney general when it was implemented and it probably came from a citizen request. I'm not exactly sure how that came about, but that's what I heard more frequently at the doors than anything else.
Cartmell: Can I ask you a couple of questions about your take on education and jobs, and the economy? Would you be okay with that?
Minihan: Sure, what's the question?
Cartmell: How would you like to improve education in Missouri and specifically in Jefferson City?
Minihan: Improving education is the job of the institutions, and the institutions need to be funded and with the state's constitutional obligation to educate it's citizens. Then I think the state should be willing to support them financially. My dad always said it's not how much you make, it's how much you spend. So I hope the institutions can pay close attention to what they spend and where they spend it and make sure it's going to help the students learn. And when you have a well-educated citizenry, then corporations will flock here for their businesses.
Cartmell: What role do you thing the state legislature should have in improving education?
Minihan: I think the state legislature should probably stay out of the business of education and they should concern themselves with keeping the educational system funded.
Cartmell: In what ways do you think it would be best to fund these? Is there a way that you can make sure these schools are funded?
Minihan: Well again, I would want to make sure I am simply representing the interests of the constituents. But you know the continue decline in revenue has got to stop. You know, the educational system takes money to support it. And when you have continual decreases in revenue then you are going to have to continually decrease funding until the educational system is hurting to the point where it'll only be the elites that are able to afford a higher education. The classroom sizes of K-12 could grow to be enormous.
Cartmell: What are your thoughts on unaccredited schools? I know we kind of have a problem in St. Louis and Kansas City, not so much here in Jefferson City, but do you have an opinion on how we could help unaccredited schools and what is your position on that?
Minihan: As a state legislature with unaccredited schools, that's the school districts themselves that have to address that issue and I think the state legislature should just be there to help them work through their problems and I am not sure what those problems entail and I would be speaking out at schools to try and address that question.
Cartmell: So then, what role do you think state should play on failing schools? Right now, I know, like the unaccredited schools in some areas aren't doing as well in some areas as others, how would you like to address that?
Minihan: In our decision to fail schools, I don't understand your question.
Cartmell: How would you like to address schools that aren't doing as well as you'd like them to be?
Minihan: Well I think the school systems are doing the best they can with what they have. And if there are school systems that are failing as you say or not educating the children then something needs to be done. And as far as the state legislature, I'm not sure if just throwing money at it is the solution. I'd say that there are solutions that entail bringing in teachers from other districts that have worked to succeed that their best practices could be implemented in failing school systems. There's teachers associations around the state I am sure that would be more than happy to help out and lend their experience to solving the problems. As far as the state legislature micromanaging school districts, I don't think that's what my constituents would feel is our best approach to solving problems.
Cartmell: Then what is your opinion of the schools in Jefferson City and how they are doing?
Minihan: Well, the way I understand it, this is a great place to raise children. I know that they are right now discussing the high school situation and the proposal to make one big high school with different campuses. Again, it's the experts, we pay the experts and we got to trust them. So I would yield to the experience of the paid professionals we have in place.
Cartmell: So then how would you like to promote job opportunities in Missouri?
Minihan: Well I think if the educational system was funded fully then you would have a greater draw of businesses because corporations are going to flock to a place where they have a ready supply of well educated, well informed citizenry so they can fill their jobs and make the money they came here to do.
Cartmell: How would you like to maintain that success that we've had. I don't know if you would call it success but how do you maintain or encourage people to come and flock here?
Minihan: I think history would prove that education is the answer. When you have documentation of how well educated the citizens are then corporations are going to see that as the utmost, in their concern; because without a drawing pool for people to fill the positions in a business they wouldn't locate here.
Cartmell: So kind of in regards to workplace lawsuits and the amount of damages a worker can receive for disease related injuries, what are your thoughts in regards to those and just the second injury fund and that type of thing that we have here in Missouri?
Minihan: The second injury fund I think is not being funded at all at this point. And if somebody contracts a disease at work then I think it should all fall under the same rules as any workplace injury. So be it an accident or be it a disease, I think it all falls within the same category.
Cartmell: In what ways would you like to help the economy here in mid-Missouri and even just in Jefferson City?
Minihan: Well if you start paying the state workers something more than the lowest rate in the nation then that's going to increase the economy in mid-Missouri and Jefferson City. This is the constituent that I represent. The 60th district is the state workers so that's who this representative should be working the hardest for. I don't think that's been happening for like 20 years, and that's why state employees in Jefferson City are the lowest paid in the nation.
Cartmell: Now there was an increase to their pay this past year. Would you like to continue doing that?
Minihan: Oh yes, Governor Nixon suggested a two percent wage increase and the legislature followed through with that. Two percent during an election year is what many, many, many of the state works that I've talked to at their door said if it wasn't an election year they would not have received that 2 percent. They understand the process they know what's going on. They are dedicated hardworking employees. I have heard horror story, after horror story of departments with 25 people now that are now down to 11 doing the same work that they were doing prior and they can't keep their head above water, they can't take time off, it's just gotten to the point where people will not take state jobs. So it's important for us to raise their standard of living, be it through better healthcare, better benefits, increased wages, maybe some child support, some things that corporations around the world have found to e beneficial to keeping employees and providing them with a well, a good workforce.
Cartmell: Can you kind of tell me your position of public oversight on economic deals? Your opponent had a good amount of play in the Mamtek ordeal that we had in Missouri so I was curious about your position on public oversight on economic deals.
Minihan: The Mamtek problem was something that came about as a result of not so much due diligence on the part of the local officials in Moberly. The state representative from Moberly suggested the remedy proposed by my opponent would not have really helped anything. Public oversight is done at the ballot box. You have to elect people who are going to elect people who have your best interests at heart, not the corporate, the utility or the special interest that's giving them huge campaign contributions.
Cartmell: What is your position on tax increases?
Minihan: My position is going to be again what the constituents believe and I have heard it time and time again at the doors that everyone is willing to pay their fair share including an increase as long as they feel the money is not being wasted or squandered. And so my position on a tax increase is probably going to be tied to the constituents' feelings regarding the need.
Cartmell: Would you like to address the tax burden on small businesses and even the individual?
Minihan: What tax burden are you talking about there?
Cartmell: It seems as if there is a burden of taxes, getting those taxes paid by small businesses. Is there a burden on small businesses with taxes?
Minihan: Well I think that's what causes most businesses is that they don't pay attention to what the taxes are and maybe they don't educate themselves on the taxing process before they get into it. I think small businesses are thriving. You know, I was just talking to a guy the other day who provides health care to his workers. He gets six full time workers and because of the new health care law that's been enacted he got like a $4,000 rebate because he provides health care. So the tax issue is something that has been tossed about as the cause of all our ills and I don't necessarily see it that way personally. But if there are constituents in the 60th district who come to me and say, ‘Look this tax here, and that tax there, and these over here all of them added up make it to the point that I can't do business,' then I would do my utmost to help that constituent and just do some research to find out why these taxes are the way they are. But as far as everybody in the 60th that I have spoken with they are okay with paying their fair share with taxes.
Cartmell: How would you like to address revenue and possibly raising that in Missouri?
Minihan: Well again it's going to be a case of what the constituents want. The raising of revenue, we need to eliminate some of the loopholes. We have got to stop the cuts, you know they just keep coming. I think this last session they eliminated the corporate franchise tax, which means that eventually $75 million dollars will not be coming in from Missouri. Those dollars equate to less funding for education and we have to educate our citizenry.
Cartmell: We have experienced a pretty harsh drought this year here in mid- Missouri and our agriculture; our agriculture business seems to have taken a hit. Maybe not necessarily in Jefferson City but how do you intend on encouraging agriculture in Missouri or can you?
Minihan: Encouraging agriculture?
Cartmell: Yes, just the production of agriculture and just maintaining it. Missouri has a very large amount of agriculture that they use and I was curious how you would like to encourage that even with the drought conditions we've had this past year?
Minihan: Well I wish we had a lot more family farms if that's what you mean. I don't really know how else you can encourage farming other than that. I don't really understand the question, so.
Cartmell: I was just curious with the agriculture that we have here we've experienced a lot of harsh drought. Farmers had difficulty with their crops this past year, so I was curious if there was a way for the legislature to help them in making it a little easier with those conditions.
Minihan: Well I believe Governor Nixon instituted a well drilling policy so they are getting some help to get water for their livestock or irrigate, so that's probably one way, and maybe that would be something that needs to be expanded on. I don't know if that's something that the state legislature is going to be concerned with as far as, maybe some drought benefits like a natural disaster type of thing if that's what you're talking about. But as far as encouraging farming, I just wish there were more family farms and less corporate farms.
Cartmell: Missouri has the potential to use renewable energy such as nuclear energy. What is your position on the use of this nuclear energy?
Minihan: If we have the energy we should use it. But primarily I think the solution to our energy problems is to begin with conservation. Conservation is not something that can be mandated just like recycling cant be mandated, but it's an educational process and educating the constituents about recycling, about saving and conserving energy, about buying products that are going to be less demanding on our energy grid.
Cartmell: How would you like to take advantage of the nuclear power plant's energy in Callaway County?
Minihan: The nuclear power plant has been there about 20 years and generating electricity for Ameren UE, or Ameren Missouri I think they are going by, and then they have an Ameren Illinois so it's generating a lot of energy, clean energy. The use of nuclear energy is here to stay so I'm in favor of it. At one time it frightened me because of the waste and what we do with the waste. But I think it's here to stay and we have to confront it. And the best way to try and confront it is to use less of it.
Cartmell: Would you like to see any changes made to the health care laws in Missouri?
Minihan: I am not sure what you're talking about there.
Cartmell: A lot of the health care issues that are up at the federal level could have an impact on Missouri so I was curious what your thoughts are with health care at a state level.
Minihan: Well at a state level proposition E it's on the ballot November 6, the same day as my election and that, that is an issue that I wish that we would hold on to ourselves and accept that creating these health care exchanges will be beneficial to Missourians instead of maybe mandating it to the federal level. Instead of embracing that, it appears it has been put on the ballot to shun it. I think it will probably be detrimental to us if that proposition E passes. So I'm not sure if that's pass or fail at this point, but how it was worded and all of that is something. I'm busy campaigning so I haven't really studied up on how I am voting.
Cartmell: What are your views on transportation? Now I know there was a possibility of making I-70 a toll road and so I was curious about your overall view on transportation as a whole in mid-Missouri and especially in Jefferson City.
Minihan: Public transportation would be the greatest thing there was but that would reduce our energy consumption. As far as I-70 becoming a toll road that's something I think we need to leave in the hands of the professionals and I think we also need to embrace the citizens. You know there is a huge need for our citizens to feel like they are a part of our governmental practice, instead of the citizens thinking, ‘Oh well that's what they are doing,' well no it's what we're doing because we put these people in place. So if we reach out to the citizens and ask them ‘what do you think about the idea of turning I-70 into a toll road so that everybody has to pay their dues or their fees to utilize that for a period of time,' and if they embrace it, then I will embrace it; but until that time I would probably be opposed to the idea of a toll road. I mean there is one toll road that I know of in Missouri and that's the bridge at the Lake of the Ozarks. That's like $3 going across it one way, so it's $6 for a return trip. You know if it was $8 to go to St. Louis that's added to a trip every time you go to St. Louis. The people who have that money will pay it and the people who don't will either stay at home or find an alternate route to St. Louis. I don't know I guess as far as transportation and the automobile that is the situation.
Cartmell: Last question for you, what legislation is most important to you?
Minihan: The legislation that the people of the 60th district are concerned with. And I want them to talk to me. That's the whole problem with the situation before us and our government right now is that somehow, and I count myself partially responsible for this, I thought that it was the politicians and the bureaucrats who were not doing what they should do. Well after campaigning for some time I realized that it's maybe us the citizens who are standing back and letting things get out of control. So it's time for the citizens to take things back and if they want some legislation enacted then they need to start reaching out to our legislature, their state senator, their congress person, the president and tell them this is what we want to see you do. If it means stopping all spending until we get this thing under control then that's what you should tell them. Sometimes I think that is part of the problem is that the entire governmental system is just kind of in motion. And it is just going to keep going that way and it's like the election process it's just going to keep going that way because of the politicians in there see it as this is the try and true way of getting campaign donations so that I can make good with these people. And then I'm going to go over here and do this and go and do that, and cause these people to start contributing more and try and kill this off. I think it's your responsibility to as the media. You know the fourth estate is letting us down. You know they want to call you the liberal media but facts are facts and if people aren't getting the facts then the information is pointless. You know because it's not getting to the people.
Cartmell: Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?
Minihan: No, I appreciate you for coming out.
Cartmell: Well thank you so much.