State senate candidates on the issues: What should Johnson County get for the money it sends to Topeka?

Dan Blom - October 14, 2016 11:00 am

We sent questions last week to candidates for state senate in Districts 6, 7 and 10, all of which cover at least a portion of northeast Johnson County. The questions we selected came from a large number submitted by readers.

By the deadline for the fifth and final question, we had received the following responses. They appear below. Today’s question is:

Johnson County accounts for a high percentage of tax revenue in the state compared to other counties. What should the Johnson County delegation be getting in return?

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Senate District 7

Barbara Bollier

Barbara Bollier
Barbara Bollier

First and foremost, public policy in Kansas is not nor should it be about what the legislators “get”, but should be what the people who they represent “get”. Johnson county has created tremendous success that reflects our values and our commitment to the people. But how is that economic success reflected at the state level? One of our challenges is that unlike Wichita, we are divided into a plethora of small cities that each is striving to maintain its own quality of life and tax base. We also are divided into multiple school districts that have their own parochial needs. And yet we collectively contribute the majority of tax revenue to the state.
Johnson County is the center-point of Kansas economics. At the very least we should have the political clout to have public policy reflect Johnson County’s school funding needs. Our delegation must unify around those needs as well as others such as local control. Watching the divisive politics that have taken place just these past few weeks saddens me. We need a united delegation to fully and appropriately represent the people of Johnson County.
My years in the House have been spent working with my delegation, both Republicans and Democrats, and I pledge to continue in that model of service, forming a unified voice to show what true leadership is. A unified Johnson County delegation will have the power that can pass policy being asked for by Johnson County citizens who fund the largest portion of the Kansas budget. That is representative government.

Megan England

Megan England
Megan England

The idea of “us vs. them” is both harmful and myopic. I have friends and family state-wide and care about their welfare. Our goal should be to rise together; to see value in our differences. Let’s work hand-in-hand to build our future and a new economy based on solar and wind.

Yes, Johnson County pays more than other counties. And it’s beyond frustrating that we don’t get back the quality of services we deserve. But with an improved tax code all of that could change. We shouldn’t be pitting County vs. County or Kansan vs. Kansan. Instead, let’s focus on why corporate interests like Koch Industries should pay more, but don’t.

Another thing Johnson County is entitled to but isn’t getting – effective leadership. The best solutions arise when different viewpoints are at the table; when ideas are challenged and common ground achieved. Kansas continues to decline under the mismanagement of Governor Brownback and the Republican super-majority all because the legislature is so far out of balance. The Republican Representatives in our area are “booted” from committees for challenging their Party and wear it as badge of honor. But not having a seat at the table isn’t noble and it’s definitely not helpful. It’s a symbol of failure and rejection; not success or even respect. As constituents we deserve more. True leaders create, support and advance legislation; they don’t sit back complaining of how unfair their circumstances are, “hoping” for things to change.

As your Democratic State Senator, I will have the opportunity to speak loudly and boldly for you, especially on committees where the heavy lifting of legislation is done. I have a significant track record of taking on government dysfunction, building coalitions and creating substantial change. I spent eight years successfully crafting legislation, finding common ground between party lines and moving this community forward. I don’t expect it to be easy in Topeka, but I’m certainly ready and willing to take on the challenge.

What’s happening in Kansas isn’t working. It’s been 40 years since Johnson County sent a Democrat to the Senate. We need balance in the legislature and Western Kansas is not going to help us with that any time soon.

If you really want change in Kansas, it’s time for actions; not just words. Results matter. Your voice matters.

I ask for your vote on or before Nov. 8th

Let’s make history and change Kansas together.

Senate District 10

Vicki Hiatt

Vicki Hiatt
Vicki Hiatt

Johnson County sends a great deal of tax dollars to the state capitol to improve our district and our state. There are definitely things we should receive for our support.

Our parents should see a state house that provides support for our public universities. Parents have had to endure a back door tax as their students go off to universities and face skyrocketing tuition due to our governor’s policies, endorsed by my opponent. https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article95051377.html

Our citizens should know that our jails and prisons are safe. The state of Kansas has seen jail and prison escapes from multiple facilities and our prison and jail guards are paid minimal wages. Despite calls to pay them more, the state has said no. Johnson County residents deserve to know that inmates we send to prison will stay there. My opponent has voted for budgets that continue to cut funding and support.

Johnson County residents deserve a Department of Children and Family Service that works. A recent audit showed that Kansas DCF was undermanned and as a result, cases of child abuse were not  addressed.  (https://www2.ljworld.com/news/2016/jul/27/audit-kansas-failing-protect-safety-children-foste/) The report said that DCF fails foster children and as a result, we’ve seen horrific consequences, including beating deaths of children, because DCF didn’t have the resources to follow up.  My opponent was the chair of the committee that failed to adequately fund protection for abused children. https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article105163041.html Johnson County residents know we can do more than spend state money chasing down foster home lottery winners, as my opponent suggested (https://bit.ly/2dPkmx9). Instead, we can focus on protecting children.

Johnson County residents also deserve to know that if their children go to work for the state government that we will work to make sure they are safe. A young woman was raped in Osawatomie State Mental Health facility. (https://cjonline.com/news/2015-12-22/feds-cited-systemic-failure-security-cutting-medicare-funds-osawatomie-state) The federal government cut off funding, citing safety concerns. As Chair of the Health committee, Sen. Pilcher-Cook had been warned about staffing and security concerns years before. She chose to do nothing.

What should Johnson County residents expect from our state if I’m elected? Someone who will listen to the district, accept good advice and work to improve the life of all Kansans.

I ask for your vote on November 8th, and hope to serve you well in the state senate.

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher-Cook
Mary Pilcher-Cook

Johnson County has a higher percentage of tax revenue due to population, and it heavily subsidizes rural areas in Kansas, whether it is for education, telecommunication, agriculture, or health care, etc. While we should consider how legislation affects the county, we should also consider the needs of all citizens in the state. Concurrently, it is critical to recognize inherent advantages and disadvantages of choosing to live in each area.

For a limited example, when most urban citizens look out the window, they don’t see beautiful green fields, ponds or fascinating wildlife. They certainly cannot hunt or fish on urban property. Yet most citizens made choices, giving that up for other desirable attributes that urban areas have to offer – close proximities to schools, shopping and medical facilities. It’s a simple fact of life there are unlimited wants with limited resources and each individual or family has to make decisions on what best fits their needs and desires.

When citizens from one region demand that government control citizens from another region, by ordering those citizens to give from their own limited resources, it creates many imbalances that can hurt both regions in the long term. This needs to be seriously considered by policymakers.

Government should not be used as a coercive tool to get other subsidies in return. Instead, local control by people in their communities should have the responsibility to fund what works best for them in their location as much as possible.

Kansas is a diverse, rich state and while we are elected to serve our local constituents, we should keep in mind that when the entire state grows and thrives, we all thrive and benefit.

Johnson County and the cities I serve – Shawnee, Lake Quivira, Merriam, Overland Park and Desoto, are vibrant communities because of the amenities, resources and people that live in the community.  I have been honored to serve as your state senator and I ask for your vote.

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