By County Current Staff
The County Current staff interviewed both candidates for state representative for the 159th district. This is our interview with Republican candidate Dirk Deaton. You can find our interview with the Democrat candidate Jerry Sparks here.
(Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.)
(County Current) What made you decide to run for Missouri State Representative?
(Dirk Deaton) “I have a particular set of values and principles. I think they are reflective of the people here in the 159th district, and it was important to me to see those values and those principles have a voice in Jefferson City.”
What kind of values in particular?
“The values of limited government. Most people [in this area] are generally conservative, and [Thomas] Jefferson, much more eloquently than I, said it best when he said that government which governs best governs least. Smaller government is probably in most cases better government, and the problem with these extremes on the other side is that government large enough to give you anything is certainly large enough to take everything away from you.”
What is one thing that you want to accomplish in this district (the 159)?
“Something I would like to see locally and has been in the works for years is I-49. We’re six miles short of seeing it complete as far as the Missouri side is concerned. Arkansas has some miles to go as well, but they stand ready to complete that. On the Missouri side, we are the ones that are in limbo due to our lack of funds. Our 6 miles is going to cost about $60 million numbers (rough numbers). We have 30 million set aside, so we’re constantly looking for $30 million to complete that, and I think that would really secure not just McDonald County’s economic future but will certainly be good for all Southwest Missouri.”
If the problem with I-49 is funding, how would you help secure that funding? Taxes?
“For me, [taxes] would probably not be the right approach. I knocked on 3000 doors personally. My campaign knocked on 10,000 doors so far. I’ve not had one person say that they would like me to raise their taxes. I don’t think that would be good representation on my part. So here is what I would say, a budget is a list of priorities. Right? I suspect most people pay their water and sewer first, but Netflix you can live without it. For the state of Missouri, our priorities are not exactly where they need to be. The state budget is almost 29 billion dollars, so the 30 million that we need down here is less than two tenths of one percent of that budget. I think it’s there. It’s just a matter of finding it and allocating it.”
You’re 24. You’re really young compared to the average age of a state representative. Do you think your youth is an advantage?
“Age is not an issue for me, one way or the other. I do think it could be helpful for the legislature as a whole. We are supposed to represent the state of Missouri, and so I think it would be good to have all interests and all groups represented. Hopefully, I got some energy, some vigor, some new ideas that would also serve me well, but age isn’t an issue for me. It’s about doing the job. I’m just focused on the issues and what I think is important for the people and for the state.”
What are you views on school choice (open-enrollment laws)? Would it be good or bad for this area?
“I’m hesitant without getting into a lot of specificity on just school choice because I feel like it’s become a term that either has really positive or negative connotations associated with it. In the primary, we had Right to Work (that’s what proponents called it) while the opponents called it Right to Work for Less. It came down to what it meant to you and that comes down to the individual. On a basic level, there are families in the state of Missouri right now that do have school choice, and in those terms, I would even put myself in that category. I went through the fifth grade in public schools here in McDonald County (at Noel), and then I was homeschooled. We had the choice to do that; not every family does. Not everyone is in that financial position. If you look at the state constitution, we promised (at least in terms of K-12) to give the students of Missouri a free quality public education, so if that’s our commitment, then I think we need to live up to it. As far as I can tell the quality of education in this area is very high. There’s a couple places in our state that is not necessarily the case, and those kids really don’t really have a great hope of getting a high-quality education. While that doesn’t necessarily affect us, it’s something that I don’t think should be acceptable to us as a state or tax payers. Again, if we are going to make that commitment, we should live up to it.”
Is the high cost of tuition a problems, and if so, what can we do about it?
“I’m very hesitant to get government more involved than it already is. I do think the price of college is an issue. I also think we have to be responsible for the choices that we make. If you go to the University of Arkansas or the University of Missouri (great schools), you are going to incur more financial burden at those institutions than if you attended Crowder or Southern. That’s something to keep in mind. It seems to me that some people go to these schools where the costs incurred our substantially more than something else that they could do, and they graduate with a significant amount of debt. Again, there is some responsibility that the individual needs to bear in those cases. You made a conscious choice there; you didn’t have to do that. Just like when we purchase any other products, you don’t have to buy the Mercedes, you can buy the Chevrolet. We need to think about those things.”
“As far as how we address [tuition cost], here in the state of Missouri we have gone to a more tuition-based funding model for higher education. We haven’t really talked about it, but that’s what we’ve done. Just two years ago, higher education took a ten percent cut across the board. I think that’s unfortunate and hate to see that occur, but the reason that happened is our social programs are growing by such an amount that we really had no choice. You had to go somewhere to find the money. We have tough choices as policy-makers and citizens. How much government are we willing to support? How do we want that money spent? Do we want to expand Medicaid in this state, which is going to incur hundreds of millions more than it currently does? Or do we want to spend more on higher education? Or do we want to do both? If that’s the case, people’s taxes are going to have to exponentially go up, which is something I don’t support. Difficult choices, but unfortunately, there is a finite amount of resources.”