This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 30, 2012 - Throughout this campaign I have spent time trying to convince people of the importance of the lieutenant governor’s office. This has not been an easy task. The office is often referred to in the press as “largely ceremonial and lacking in any real duties.” One of my goals as lieutenant governor will be to educate the public on the ways the office should function to be of great benefit to the citizens of Missouri.
The primary responsibility of the lieutenant governor is to step in as governor should the need arise. Because of this, the voters should give the same consideration to the qualification of candidates for lieutenant governor that they give the governor’s race. My experience as state auditor gave me insight into the functioning of the state as a whole that makes me well suited to lead the state in challenging economic times. Also important is the ability for our governor and lieutenant governor to work together to move Missouri forward and create jobs in the state. The governor needs a second-in-command who will not undermine his efforts.
The lieutenant governor is the designated advocate for veterans and seniors. My office will have a dedicated staff member for senior issues and an equally dedicated staffer for veteran’s affairs. The current staff of five employees includes a deputy lieutenant governor and four other administrative positions. When I became state auditor, I did not fill the deputy position and instead handled the daily work myself. I intend to do the same as lieutenant governor and will replace political jobs with a staff dedicated to their roles as advocates.
There is a clear need for advocacy on the part of senior citizens. As state auditor, I repeatedly found shortcomings in our laws when it came to protecting our seniors. For example, a background check audit found that individuals disqualified from working in our daycare centers because of a history of abuse could still work in our long-term care facilities. As lieutenant governor, I will help to change these laws and work with other advocacy groups to foster an environment of protection and support for our seniors.
There will be no better advocate in this state for our veterans. I come from a military family. My father was a career Marine, shot down and missing in action in Vietnam. I know first-hand the difficulties facing our military families. As more service members return home, we have to be in a position to address issues such as mental health, homelessness and making sure our veterans can find a job. My office will be a source of guidance and support in cutting through red tape to make sure our veterans have access to benefits. We will also champion new types of help for our veterans such as the establishment of veterans’ courts and other innovative ways to address issues unique to our service members.
As we work to create jobs and spur economic development in Missouri, we have to address the relationship of tax credits to our state budget. Proposals to cap credits as a whole are shortsighted. Many of the tax credits have been vital to development and renovation in our major cities, but there are issues the lieutenant governor is in a position to address. As state auditor, I found problems with the internal functions of boards and commissions responsible for tax credits. Before we look at the credits themselves, we have to start with the source and make sure the awarding of credits is a fair process to quality projects without the appearance of pay-to-play.
I believe the lieutenant governor can and should be a respected office serving the needs of Missouri. I am the person who can make that happen.
Susan Montee is the Democratic candidate for Missouri lieutenant governor.