Schweich, Hanaway Outline 2016 Gubernatorial Campaign Platforms
The Republican gubernatorial primary is more than a year-and-a-half away on Aug. 2, 2016, but candidates are already busy staking out their positions and priorities.
At an annual meeting hosted by the Missouri Press Association and Associated Press on Thursday at the state capitol, state Auditor Tom Schweich and former House speaker Catherine Hanaway discussed campaign finance limits, right-to-work legislation and education, among other topics. Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat running for governor, was invited but didn't attend. Schweich and Hanaway will face off against former state Rep. Rick Asbury of Moberly in the primary. Asbury announced Thursday he was entering the race.
Campaign finance limits
While Missouri did away with campaign finance limits in 2008, the issue has emerged again as part of discussions around ethics reform.
Hanaway has already faced criticism from Schweich about a single campaign donation of $750,000 from retired businessman Rex Sinquefeld last fall.
Hanaway said she didn’t think limits were a good idea.
“What I can tell you is, there was less transparency when we had limits,” Hanaway said. “If you go back and look at those campaign finance reports from that time period, what you’ll see is the 111th legislative district, the 41st legislative district, who because they were party committees could give at 10 times the limit, so people would contribute through there. You didn’t really know the ultimate source of the money.”
She recommended the state have instantaneous campaign finance reporting.
Schweich was more amenable to campaign finance limits although he, too, warned that when Missouri did have campaign finance limits, it was too easy to get around them. He proposed a system in which no one donor could contribute more than 25 percent of the candidate’s total funds. If a candidate raised $1 million, one individual could donate as much as $250,000. (About 70 percent of Hanaway's contributions so far have come from Sinquefield.)
'Right to work'
The Missouri House just passed a "right-to-work" bill that would bar unions or companies from requiring all workers to join the union and pay union dues. It now must go the Senate. Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed the bills in the past and says he will continue to do so.
Schweich said that if he were elected, he would sign any right-to-work bill that came across his desk. With many of the states around Missouri having "right-to-work" laws, Schweich said the state is at a competitive disadvantage.
“At some point it’s no longer a philosophical debate,” Schweich said. “It’s no longer a union versus management fight. It’s just practicality. If you want the jobs, you’re going to have to be able to compete with your neighbors.”
Hanaway has also said in the past she would make Missouri a right-to-work state.
Both Schweich and Hanaway said there are problems with the state’s K-12 education system.
Schweich said he would push for more school choice and more local control over schools.
"We should be accrediting schools individually rather than as a district," Schweich said. "If you're in one that is not accredited, you should be able to transfer to one that is accredited ...
"Any student who's in a school that's not providing a student proper education should have the option to go to a better school."
Hanaway also said she thinks school districts should have more say themselves and tenure "shouldn't be managed at the state level."
"There should be choices," Hanaway said. "Eliminating teacher tenure takes us out of the lock step that we are in now and puts that control back into the local school districts. If the local school district decides they want teacher tenure, it should be up to them."
Schweich said he was not in favor of eliminating teacher tenure.
A few school transfer bills are currently working their way through committees.
Both candidates also addressed state transportation. Missouri voters rejected a three-quarters-cent transportation sales tax last year and the Missouri Department of Transportation announced this month they would have to cut back road maintenance.
Hanaway said it's "unacceptable" that MoDOT had to make those cuts. Instead of tolls or taxes, she suggested the state could create more funds by finding as much as 2 percent savings in the state's operating budget.
Schweich, who released an audit of the transportation commission a few months ago, said the state could save "hundreds of thousands of dollars" if commissioners didn't fly.
"I will not be convinced that (the commissioners) need more money until they show me more of a commitment to keeping their own costs down and operating in a responsible manner," he said.
Hanaway clarified her comments she made earlier this month about a culture of "sexual permissiveness" that has led to "record levels of out of wedlock births" and has "impoverished women."
"What I said was that women face a lot of challenges," Hanaway said. "Among those challenges are needing greater economic opportunities, needing greater educational opportunities and needing support in parenting ...
"I never said that single working moms were sexually permissive."
Follow Ray Howze on Twitter: @RayHowze.