Voters Guide

Missouri House, 20th District: School funding, taxes fuel debate in a rematch

John Sutton
John Sutton

Tax policy and funding for schools are top issues in the race for Missouri’s 29th House District.

Democrat John Sutton of Independence is making a second attempt this November to unseat incumbent Republican Noel Torpey, also of Independence.

The district encompasses the eastern part of the metro area from just south of Missouri 78 to north of U.S. 50 between Woodson Road and Lee’s Summit Road.

A recently approved state law that would cut income taxes and its impact on education funding have the two candidates most at odds.

Torpey stressed that precautions were written into the bill to protect against credit rating downgrades like those seen after similar cuts in Kansas. The state would have to show $150 million in growth before the cuts would take effect, and the cuts would be incremental beginning in 2017, Torpey said.

“There are massive safety nets there,” he said. “It’s a very conservative approach, but it also stops the bleeding of Missouri businesses going over to Kansas.”

Sutton, however, is not convinced about the safeguards.

“I don’t buy it. It’s just too easy to change,” he said, adding that a supermajority in the legislature could simply vote away the precautions. “We don’t want to follow Kansas into the financial problems they’ve had.”

He said that when it comes to giving tax incentives to bring business to Missouri, the state should tie incentives to jobs created. And he favors a tax holiday as another way to keep businesses in the state.

Revenue losses from the income tax cuts will make it hard to pay for education and road improvements, Sutton said. But he said that he is committed to fully funding education, even if that means cutting other state departments.

Sutton suggested toll roads based on license plates of non-Missouri residents might be a way to support road repair, rather than sales or fuel tax increases.

Torpey said schools will not be hurt because of safeguards in the income tax cut bill. He added that the state should be focusing harder on small businesses as a way to boost revenue that will ultimately help the schools.

The two candidates differed in their views of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Sutton said the state shouldn’t have refused the expansion, thereby turning down federal dollars for health care funding for the poor.

Torpey supported a bill (House Bill 1901) that would have expanded Medicaid eligibility but also had some requirements for younger, nondisabled participants.

“It was a conservative approach. It would help people who want to help themselves,” he said.

However, that bill did not get legislative approval.


Age: 58

Address: 3608 Randall Drive, Independence

Occupation: School teacher

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, Central Missouri State University (now University of Central Missouri)

Previous public service: Board of directors, Missouri Chess Association



Age: 42

Address: Independence

Occupation: Co-owner, Torpey Brothers lawn and landscaping company

Education: Bachelor’s in social science, Graceland University

Previous public service: Missouri House, 2010-present; former member, Independence School Board Advisory Committee; member, Child Abuse Prevention Association of Independence