Candidate questionnaire: What’s the biggest issue facing Kansas?

Today, the candidates in the local statehouse primaries polish off our questionnaire by answering the following:

What is the biggest issue facing the state today, and what specific steps would you take to address it in Topeka if elected?

Senate District 7

David Harvey (R)
The biggest issue facing the State of Kansas is the lack of new job creation. Since 1998, Kansas has ranked dead last in new job creation. The taxpayers of Kansas have had to carry the burden of 53,000 new public sector employees while private sector employment has decreased by nearly the same amount over the past 13 years. This is why Kansas ranks first in public employees per capita in the United States. Being first in this category is not a good thing!
The good news is that Johnson County has seen modest job growth during the past 13 years. However, other areas of Kansas have not been as fortunate. Since these areas have been less fortunate, this means the burden of funding the State’s budget requires a greater contribution from Johnson County residents.
Solving this problem will not be an easy task. States like Wisconsin and Ohio have made these hard choices and have turned their ships around. Both states have started to see significant improvement in their job growth numbers. Kansas has the potential to surpass these states. We have many favorable natural resources that will allow us to build new industries that can export products to other states and countries. We need strong leaders in our State government that will fight to dig Kansas out of the hole we are currently in.

Kay Wolf (R)
Kansas faces an increasingly competitive economic environment. Every day we compete across the nation and around the world with others who aim, as we do, to provide the most attractive opportunities for new businesses. Kansas has many advantages — a widely acclaimed work ethic, a favorable tax climate, right to work laws, established infrastructure and, most importantly, a well educated work force.
The biggest issue facing the state will be maintaining the balance between reducing the cost of government and funding our most important resource – the people of Kansas. Eroding our commitment to education reduces the cost of government in the short term, but shortchanges the long term future of our state. Those whose sole focus is cost cutting will mortgage future opportunities for our children and our established adult population. Experimenting with unproven plans and policies that will dramatically impact our future is not a risk I will take. The slogans of ‘new leadership and change’ characterize the efforts of many people running for office. These slogans are meaningless when it comes to developing policies that make Kansas a great place to live and provide real economic growth.
I stand for balance between cost reduction and sustaining our commitment to education. I stand for a clear demarcation between the three branches of government. When the legislative, the judicial, and the executive branches of government are aligned in lock step ideology, we lose our established systems of check and balances. These very checks and balances are exactly our forefather’s vision for what we know and enjoy – Democracy.

House District 19

Bruce Belanger (R)
Our biggest issue is economic growth. Private sector employment in Kansas over the last decade is down by 39,000 jobs. Of course we are affected by downturn in both the national and world economies, but we are not doing enough to effectively compete with other states.  Economic prosperity leads to greater tax revenue, less dependency on government services, and the ability to fund programs that are important to us. Many problems are solved by prosperity.

We need to establish a competitive mindset in charting our future and making policy decisions. Regulation, tax policy, workforce talent, infrastructure, and the overall cost of doing business are all factors that weigh into the development of a growth-oriented environment. We need to work hard to be the best in each area. Creating a first class commercial environment will reduce the reliance on incentives to bring commerce to Kansas.

A key component of establishing a platform for growth is stabilizing the structure of state finances, including two of the biggest issues, KPERS and Medicaid. We all see the national news headlines about the dire financial condition of many states, we need to keep our state out of those headlines. These issues have been ignored for too long, we need elected officials that are willing to address these matters now.

Stephanie Sawyer Clayton (R)
I have great concerns about the trend of eliminating checks and balances in state government, and a refusal to accept ideas from those with differing views. Our founding fathers intended to have a government that functioned with diverse views in all branches, and was truly representative of The People. People in Northeast Kansas have different ideas of what constitutes good government than people from central or Western Kansas, and all of those ideas should be brought to the table in Topeka. I intend to represent the wishes of The People of the 19th House district, and to work to build coalitions with other legislators across the state.

House District 25

Scott Gregory (D)
The biggest issue is the Brownback Tax Bill, which will kill public education, raise taxes on the poor and bankrupt the State. Many will say “School funding,” but that will not be solved without adequate revenues. I would support any tax bill that returns fairness and adequate revenues. I would also support the 12-Year Highway Program to create jobs.

Megan England (D)
The lack of adequate funding to public schools is currently the biggest issue facing the state of Kansas. Excellent public schools are critical to strong economies, and they prepare future generations for the workforce of tomorrow. The Legislature must restore education funding to mandated levels and allow communities to raise additional school funds locally.

Melissa Rooker (R)The biggest issue facing the state today is the looming cost of the tax package just passed. We face a $2.5 billion dollar deficit by 2018 under the new plan. The state is obligated to balance its budget each year, but we cannot possibly cut our way to a balanced budget without creating dire consequences for our schools, our local governments and our communities. This plan seeks to take $18,000 out of every classroom in Kansas. We need reasonable, responsible decision making to balance tax policy and spend efficiently on the type of programs and services we depend on as Kansans to protect our quality of life.

Stephen Foster (R)

Did not respond.

Bill Griffith (R)
The number one issue for the state and for Johnson County is to create a more equitable school finance formula.

I want to be extremely clear about this point, revising the school finance formula does not mean we as a state need to spend more on public education. According to the NEA, Kansas ranks 15th in the per capita expenditures of state and local governments for public K-12 schools. Over 60 percent of the state general fund is devoted to education. We cannot spend our way to better education. We can however, more fairly distribute those funds.

The Kansas legislature increasingly mirrors the US Congress as a dysfunctional and juvenile, mess. Every member has a label; conservative, moderate, liberal, tea partier, etc. As you can read almost daily, the moderate versus tea-party conservative battle for control of the Kansas Legislature gets nastier every day.

In contrast, NE Johnson County has a long history of electing candidates that defy labels and that are first and foremost, are listeners and thinkers. I pledge to you that I will engage in every issue, listen to and research the different points of view, and vote with the best interests of my constituents and The State of Kansas in mind.

If there is one specific step I intend to take if elected it’s just that, listen and think, and reject the predetermined policies and prejudices that are destroying our democratic process.

Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas for the questions — and to the candidates for their answers. Remember, the election is next Tuesday, August 7. GO VOTE!!!