Q&A: Rep. Vicky Hartzler discusses economy, TPP, ‘right to work’

Entering the home stretch of her Congressional re-election campaign, Rep. Vicky Hartzler visited the University of Missouri on Aug. 31. The Republican, who represents Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District and is running against Democratic challenger Dr. Gordon Christensen of Columbia, spoke with reporters during her campus visit. Missouri Business Alert was on hand to ask Hartzler about her constituents’ economic concerns, Missouri’s fight over “right-to-work” legislation and challenges for farmers in the state.

Missouri Business Alert: What are some of the most prominent economic issues or concerns you’re hearing from constituents, and how are you working to address those?

Vicky Hartzler: The barriers to job creation that are often cited. One is over-regulation by the government from various government agencies. We hear a lot about the Environmental Protection Agency changing the “Waters of the U.S.” rule so that they are going to have federal jurisdiction over property. That’s upsetting.

They are concerned about the Clean Power Plan rule. That’s really going to shut down a lot of our coal-powered plants, which are clean and affordable. And 82 percent of Missouri’s energy comes from coal. So it’s projected that the electricity costs are going to double. …

So what I’m trying to do, I co-sponsored the bill to undo the Waters of the U.S. rule. … I’m supportive of lowering our corporate tax rate, so we’re not the highest in the world anymore, so we can be more competitive. And I’ve also supported defunding the Clean Power Plan rule so that our electricity bills don’t double. Those are practical, tangible things that I hear Missouri businesses talking about.

What’s your assessment of the debate over right-to-work laws in Missouri and what it would mean for Missouri to become a right-to-work state?

I think it would help encourage more businesses to come to here if Missouri were a right-to-work state. I have heard and had a chance to meet businesses who have companies in other states, and it is a hindrance for them to consider moving here because there are not those laws. This is something I know the Missouri Legislature in Jefferson City has been debating quite a while, and I kind of watch from afar. But I think it would be helpful. I support it.

With the USDA projecting farm income to drop 11.5 percent this year, it’s a challenging time for farmers. As a farmer yourself, what’s your message to agricultural producers in the state?

As a farmer, I understand the difficulties of the low prices that they are experiencing, but I’m encouraged that the yields on the crops are going to look very good. Most farmers are glad at least to have a good crop even though the prices are low. They’d rather have that than have no crop and prices be high, because they do have some marketing options … and things can turn around as far as prices.

What I want them to know is that one way to raise the prices and to help is to increase the amount of trade and the export. That’s something I’m working on in Washington D.C. that I hope will be helpful to them. There is a pending trade deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership … that could have huge, positive benefits for Missouri agriculture. They estimate that if this were to pass, we would have $40 billion more a year in exports for our farm products and 40,000 new jobs across the country. For Missouri, it would be huge, because agriculture is our No. 1 export.

We as an office have been reading the entire 2,000-page TPP agreement to make sure that it’s good for everybody. And we’re going to continue analyzing that. But I’m hopeful that maybe we’ll be able to get some increased trade and that will help farmers have more income.

What weight does Donald Trump’s candidacy have in your district and your campaign?

We will see, but I think so far there’s been pretty much a separation. People are discussing Trump vs. Clinton, and then they’re able to separate and look at what I’ve done for the district and what they know about me and what I’m working on. And I don’t think there’s too much of a correlation. So I think people will go down the ticket and visit each one and think about which choice is best for this office, and they’ll make their decision.

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