ST. LOUIS — Hindsight is 20/20, they say. For Dave Spence, former Republican gubernatorial hopeful, looking back at the 2012 session is not exactly a matter of hindsight so much as it is a reflection of decisions made and how he might have handled it.
Spence, who lost the race for governor to Jay Nixon last November, comes from a business-focused background, which contrasts some of his thoughts about actions taken with Nixon’s legal background.
The tax cut bill
While Spence agrees with Nixon on the front of an added pharmaceutical tax —which the bill’s creators say was unintended — being a burden to tax payers, he said he thinks it was a result of not engaging in the process of that bill’s development.
“I would have taken it a step further and gone back to what 99 percent of the voters thought they were voting on with the lottery and gambling revenue and said we’re going to go back to where school funding was,” Spence said. “The gambling and lottery money will be in addition to, not in lieu of, that. And after all of the education money is restored, then do the tax cuts.”
Spence said closing the gap in the funding formula and restoring higher education funds would have taken precedence, as those priorities are long overdue.
Topping the list of issues that Spence said he would have made priorities is ethics reform. So much so, in fact, that he said it would be special session worthy.
Spence said the legislature should lead by example with ethics reform in hopes of creating, eventually, a moratorium on donating to elected officials.
“I don’t think things like commissions, appointments, tax credits and state contracts should be for sale,” Spence said.
The tax credit issue especially became a topic of discussion this session with some who oppose credits like Sen. Brad Lager, who said the House’s way of handling tax credits would prohibit any successful reform, referring to the relationship between campaign donations and outside efforts effecting votes.
“I’m not as hung up on the amount of putting caps or limits on it,” Spence said. “I’m more hung up on who it’s from and what they want.”
Piggybacking on that idea, he said there needs to be changes in the way legislators are making what should be a “short period job” into a career by eliminating those motivations. On a similar subject, Spence said their needs to be a “stop to the revolving door from being a legislator to becoming a lobbyist.”
The legislature, without motivation, he said, won’t always take up those types of issues, so being actively involved in what they’re working on and keeping an open door would have been another priority.
“I think you need to be out there and be visible,” Spence said. “There are 163 House members and 34 senators and you have to engage with all of them, whether or not you agree with them, and you have to respect them.”
House Bill 650
Spence said he would have supported the legislation in spite of it being an “exemption for one company,” as Nixon said.
“It’s the same thing as punitive damages for medical malpractice suits,” he said, justifying his thoughts on HB 650’s language that would cap punitive damages for the Doe Run Company.
The issue at hand with either of these subjects — lead producers or in the medical field — comes down to business, Spence’s forte.
“We just need to make Missouri a place that people want to do business in,” he said.
The gun bills
Following the recent veto of the bill that sought to nullify federal gun law enforcement, Spence said that would have been a bill he would have discouraged the legislature on.
“I know a lot of people say it comes down to states’ rights and I understand that, I really do,” he said. “I just think it’s a slippery slope when you try and exempt yourself from what the feds do.”
Spence, a National Rifle Association member, said on a different level with Second Amendment issues, he also thinks it’s reasonable to give background checks at gun shows, calling it a “small concession.”
Ultimately, he said going to the “nuclear extreme” on issues like the federal nullification bill would have been something worth avoiding.
One of the main labor efforts, “Right to work,” never made it to the governor’s desk, while others, like the so-called “paycheck protection” bill did (and was vetoed), as well as prevailing wage (a version of which became a law without a signature).
“I came on really strongly for [“Right to work”] when I was running and I’ve softened a little bit on it because I don’t think we want to be divisive,” he said. “I do think we need to examine prevailing wage laws and I do think we need to examine project labor agreements as a start. But I’m in favor of anything that would get MO going ahead. I was more interested in the whole “Right to Work” deal to get factories and businesses going in small town Missouri.”
“Paycheck protection,” Spence said, is something he wholeheartedly supports so that the “gun-toting, baby-loving Republican union workers that are making contributions and those contributions are going to people they don’t believe in,” and they have the right to choose.
With his manufacturing experience, Spence said expanding Medicaid without some fixes would be like expanding a factory that’s already losing money.
“Everybody has to have a little skin in the game, so to speak, on their medical costs,” he said. “If they did, there wouldn’t be any abuses.”
Spence said expanding Medicaid without fixes to the standing program would be an “easy way out,” and there are several things that the state could do to improve that, including making sure doctors aren’t practicing defensive medicine and finding a way to make everyone accountable for their medical costs, at least in part.
In terms of the legislature, Spence said he’s not sure that continuing to choose some issues that divide people is a smart move, and that would have been something he would have discouraged the House and Senate from.
“Anything that interferes with the education of our children shouldn’t be a priority right now,” he said.
Spence said among the actions the governor took that he supports includes the passage of the Second Injury Fund and putting a stop to the scanning of documents by the Department of Revenue. Additionally, being more visible on the job creation front.
“He’s trying to do his job and I have respect for his position, I just don’t agree with him on some of these issues,” Spence said.