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Meet the candidates in the 9th congressional district: Judy Baker

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 26, 2008  - Judy Baker stood out among the other Democratic candidates during the primaries because of her health-care experience.

During her time as a state rep, she's served on committees including appropriations committees on health, mental health and social services, health care policy and a joint committee on Missouri Health Net.

In 2007, she added an amendment to an appropriations bill that required Medicaid to pay for "telehealth" services. That amendment was approved; and according to Baker, it gives rural health clinics access to care they wouldn't otherwise have through video conferencing with physicians. People have better care that doesn't require several hours drive, Baker says.

But with the economy in the dumps, Marvin Overby thinks the health-care stance isn't as strong as it was six months ago. Nationally, "health care is really not being talked about anymore," says Overby, a political science professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia. Also, with less attention to the issue and more to financial bailouts, there probably won't be any money for health-care reform.

Dave Robertson disagrees."It's right up there and ahead of Iraq in a number of polls," says Robertson, a political science professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Whoever is elected president will have to deal with health care, he says.

And with that stance, Robertson thinks Baker's in good shape.

Before the primaries, Missouri House Democratic Minority Floor Leader Paul LeVota, D-Independence, said he was impressed with Baker's work in the capitol.

That includes 2005, when Gov. Matt Blunt proposed to cut 100,000 people from Medicaid. LeVota says Baker helped lead the charge against that legislation, which did pass.

Here, you'll find a question and answer session with Baker about her positions on the economy, health care and the war, among others.

What's the most important issue to voters in this campaign?

Baker: The economy. "What's interesting to me is the economy turned sour for your average Missourian years ago ... When it starts hurting the stockbrokers and the bank executives, then you start hearing that we have an economic crisis."

How do you propose to deal with that issue?

Baker:"We need to actually address the problem." That includes the fundamentals of the economy, Baker says, where jobs have been shipped overseas and once-vibrant businesses have closed down. The problem has trickled up. Baker says the economic proposals put before Congress will change many times for the current financial bailout and she hasn't taken a good look at them, but "we should not bail out the billionaires. We need to hold executives accountable for the decisions they've made." She also believes Congress should restructure oversight and reinstate regulations.

How important is energy independence?

Baker: "It's probably the most important issue" that we will be dealing with over the the next five years. Baker says the problem, so far, is too many arguments about what to do and not enough action. She supports a bipartisan, comprehensive plan to move forward.

How?

Baker: Offshore drilling "can give us a transitionary window to develop the alternative, renewable ... energy sources that we really need."

Do you support research and funding of alternative fuels, and what should the government's role be?

Baker: Yes. "I'd redirect oil subsidies to support renewable and alternative sources of energy." She'd also support research and development of those sources. Baker believes retooling oil subsidies could mean money to open up shuttered plants in the 9th to build hybrid cars and provide jobs.

Do you support windfall profits taxes on oil companies?

Baker: "It depends. I would have to have a real proposal in front of me to know how to answer that question."

Can -- or should -- government do anything about high oil and gas prices?

Baker: Yes. Baker wants to close deregulation loopholes that cause oil speculation, end subsidies of oil companies and create an independent presidential appointee to increase oversight on oil futures.

What's the most pressing health-care issue facing voters in the 9th this year, and what would you do about it?

Baker: "The most pressing issue is the cost of health care. We talk a lot about the price of gas and how it has skyrocketed." But Baker says if gas costs rose at the same inflationary rate as health care, gas would cost $15 a gallon. So what would she do? Lower the cost.

"Every other industrialized nation on the planet does it for nearly half of what we do it for." One proposal she supports is allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly. Baker says that would save billions of dollars. She also promotes preventative health care.

Baker proposes a combination of public and private care and insurance to expand options. If elected, she plans on requesting to serve to the commerce committee to deal with health care.

What should be done in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Baker: "I think we need a fundamental change in our approach to the war," Baker says. "Even the Iraqis are beginning to talk about time tables." Baker would support a plan that asks Iraqis to provide their own security, she says, and a pull out of American forces. She would then redirect those forces to Afghanistan.

Is earmarking a problem in Congress, and how would you change it?

Baker: Yes. She would propose a bill to require any items put into a conference bill first have survived and passed an up or down vote.

What specifically would you do in Congress to improve the housing market?

Baker: "Any plan to help the mortgage industry must not bail out the billionaires that lead us to this crisis," Baker said in an e-mail. "It must also include oversight so predatory lenders do not cause consumers to make poor decisions. Finally, and most important, we must focus rescue plans on families struggling with the mortgage, not golden parachutes for CEOs."

Has deregulation gone too far?

Baker: "Absolutely. I believe strongly that deregulation is what has caused this crisis."

Judy Baker

Home: Columbia, Mo.

Professional background: Missouri House of Representatives, 2004 to present; adjunct professor of managerial economics at Columbia College; health-care consultant and managing partner at Cura Advantage

Financing: $405,422 as of July 16. Sources include individual donations of $356,247 from individuals; $39,175 from political action committees; and $10,000 from the candidate.

For more: judybakerforcongress.com

Tomorrow: Read a profile of 9th congressional district Republican candidate Blaine Luetkemeyer.

Kristen Hare is a freelance writer living in Lake St. Louis. To reach her, contact Beacon issues and politics editor Susan Hegger.

Kristen Hare Beacon staff

Kristen Hare

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