We sent questions last week to candidates for state representative in Kansas House Districts 19, 21, 24 and 25, all of which cover sections of northeast Johnson County. The questions we selected came from the large number of questions submitted by readers.
By the deadline to respond to the fifth and final question, we had received the following responses that 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?
House District 19
I proudly serve the 19th legislative district in Kansas, and the interests of my own constituents are of the utmost importance to me.
I recognize, however, that our district is part of the larger state, and our state part of our larger union. Kansas is not the wealthiest state in the union. Yet, Kansas deserves equal and fair representation and treatment at the federal level. Similarly, Kansans should expect full, fair, and equal representation in the state legislature, regardless of their personal or their communities’ income levels. I do not believe that democracy is “pay-to-play.”
I will always be a strong advocate for our district, not because it is wealthy, but because it is my privilege as a representative to do so. In doing so, I will work with my colleagues throughout the state on those numerous areas where we all have the same interests, share the same goals, and hope to realize the same dreams. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Kansas legislature, and I would appreciate your vote on or before November 8.
This question cracks me up. Do we think the Johnson County delegation should get better offices with nicer computers? Or should we undermine the legislative system and appoint Johnson Countians to better committee seats? Or should each Johnson County citizen get a vote and a half in the next gubernatorial race because we make more money?
The bonus of being the biggest contributor to the state coffers is that we get to live in Johnson County. Period. We are already privileged. We have beautiful parks, gorgeous libraries, amazing public services, fabulous police and fire fighters, vibrant civic organizations, and a whole host of other quality of life amenities that the rest of the state would love to have access to.
Rather than ask what should we get in return I think the more proper question is this: How can we find more ways to give? How can we use our abundance – of wealth, talent, business acumen, education, and creativity – to find ways to help raise the whole state up to a higher level? Rather than demand compensation for our financial investment what if we asked the people in counties that are really struggling, how can we be of service?
The Johnson Countians I know are not the kind of people who demand more of the meal when they’ve already had enough to eat. The Johnson Countians I know are people who want to find ways to improve the lives of other people, not just enhance their own lives. Johnson County is an amazing place to live – the best place in the whole country by many counts. One of the few ways we could make it better would be to find a way to improve the state of Kansas, and rise up with it to even greater heights.
The answer is simple. Remove the local tax cap for Johnson County and allow Johnson County Residents to decide if they want to increase local taxes to add more budgeting for local schools and school districts.
House District 21
It is true Johnson County is the economic engine of the state. In return for our hard-earned dollars, we should get a responsive state government that is accountable, promotes economic growth, supports public education, allows local control, provides a strong infrastructure, and respects individuals’ personal decisions. That’s quite a laundry list, but frankly, it’s what all taxpayers ought to be getting for their tax dollars.
Our democracy hinges on one vote for each person, and no one’s vote is worth more than another. Similarly, no person or county’s wealth makes them any better than any other person or county. Do we have different resource needs here in Johnson County, and are those needs in some areas greater than elsewhere? Yes. Therefore we who become the Johnson County delegation must make our case. We are not entitled to anything; we must do our jobs and get the policies and funds that are right for our area. We must listen to our communities and communicate clearly what our Shawnee Mission Schools, cities, and county need. By working together in the delegation and with legislators across the state – regardless of party – we will be able to direct state resources fairly and in accordance with the needs of our districts. I will fight for our community, and I will do so by building relationships, collaborating, and making the legislative process work for us.
Yes, the election at the state level is about schools and the budget, how far off-track we are, and how we fix it. However, I argue this election is also about something deeper and more fundamental. It is about our representatives actually representing us. It is about our voices being heard. I vow to be a public servant, diligently listening and working for you in Topeka. It should be about you, and with me, it always will be.
First and foremost the Johnson County delegation should be getting a seat at the table and a voice in making the critical decisions facing our community. At present, many of our Republican representatives are shunned by their own party in Topeka. They are denied critical committee assignments so their voices are muted and their votes are not counted on those committees. As a Democrat from this District, I will be on those committees, my voice will be heard and my vote will be counted. As a Democrat I will not be in a position to be removed from those committees when I do not agree with the Brownback administration and his conservative loyalists in the Legislature. As your legislator the 21st District will be represented in all aspects of the legislative process. My participation in the legislative process will not be determined by how much I support the failed Brownback agenda which has made a wreck of our state.
In return for our high percentage of tax revenues going to the state we should be getting as much autonomy as possible in making and implementing local decisions at the local level. We should be getting our fair share of educational funding and the ability to fund our public schools to the level demanded by our local community. We should be getting a fair and balanced tax code that is supported by all segments of our economy. We should be getting expanded Medicaid coverage, which will bring hundreds of millions of dollars of our federal tax dollars back into the state of Kansas and provide affordable and available health care to tens of thousands of our most vulnerable citizens. We should be getting support for, instead of attacks on, our public schools, colleges and universities. We should see a stop to the constant rise in college and university tuition designed to cover up budgetary mismanagement in Topeka. We should see a stop in the robbery of our transportation funds and the public employee retirement funds, again, to cover up budget shortfalls and mismanagement in Topeka. Finally we should be getting a return to competent, effective, compassionate and common sense management of state government. We should be getting a return to government that is geared to fulfilling the needs of all of our citizens not just the wants of greedy special interests and the wealthy elite.
House District 24
It has long been recognized that Johnson County is the economic engine for the state. But that isn’t unusual as other states also have one or two areas that contribute significantly to their overall revenue.
Despite Johnson County’s contribution to our state tax revenue, we should not be receiving anything for that. Instead, Johnson County needs to identify opportunities to collaborate with other areas of the state to grow our state economy and find efficiencies.
Johnson County accounts for a large percentage of revenue because we have denser concentrations of people, higher property values, and a wider variety of business opportunities. Many of our residents in JoCo are transplants from more rural areas of Kansas, and many of us continue to have strong ties with our western Kansas families and communities.
While some of the needs of counties across Kansas vary, others are very similar. All Kansans need a state government that is responsive to the changing conditions facing our state, and supportive of opportunities for growth. Regardless if from rural or more densely populated areas, all Kansans should be concerned with a balanced revenue and budget, providing a solid education foundation for our children to ensure their success and the success of the state, conservation of the diminishing Ogallala aquifer which will impact revenues from farming, creating opportunities to expand new energy business such as solar and wind, and maintaining safe and navigable roadways for our families and friends as they travel through the state (whether your kid is driving to KU or KSU for college, we can all agree we want her to arrive at her destination safely).
Even amongst the Johnson County delegation, there is a wide variety of community needs and concerns. For example, demographic information for Shawnee Mission North indicates the families of their students with economic hardship has increased from 37% in 2011 to 45% in 2015, while demographic information for Blue Valley Southwest indicates only 5% of their students’ families with economic hardship. Both schools are represented by members of the Johnson County delegation, but the needs of the families at each school are going to be specific to their circumstance and community.
As your representative, it has been my priority to represent the interests of my community, while listening to and respecting the needs of the communities represented by my fellow legislators. While I am honored to be living in and raising my family in District 24, I respect and appreciate that at the end of the day, we are all Kansans, and our communities and families are stronger together.
House District 25
Johnson County accounts for a high percentage of the tax revenue in the state compared to other counties in large measure because we also account for the highest population density in the state. It stands to reason that the concentration of people and business interests here would bring a commensurate percent of the budget back to our county.
That said, our economic growth and success is due in part to the contributions of our rural transplants. Census data proves that population shifts are bringing more people here from out state all the time. We cannot afford to perpetuate the old geographic tug of war. Tomorrow’s qualified Johnson County workforce is studying in rural Kansas classrooms today.
Our delegation must work together to ensure that the process of developing a new school funding formula treats all Kansas school children fairly, including our own. We must safeguard quality of life measures such as good public safety, well-maintained roads and other infrastructure, and a robust business community to keep our economic engine strong.
It is abundantly clear that we need to work together with our colleagues from all across the state, as well as across the political spectrum, to find common sense solutions that balance our budget, restore fairness to our tax code and fully fund our schools. That is the greatest legacy we can create for Johnson County families.
Did not respond.