We’re continuing with the Kansas gubernatorial candidates’ responses to our invitation to share their thoughts on how to handle the Supreme Court’s ruling directing the legislature to invest more money in K-12 schools.
Here’s what Democrat Carl Brewer, the former mayor of Wichita, had to say:
“How can we fix our stalled economy and find the money to fund great Kansas schools?” These are the questions I hear most often as I have traveled this state for almost a year. A number of ideas have been proposed: Audit state agencies to ensure efficiency. Review state contracts to ensure fairness and accountability. Restore the balanced tax structure that was destroyed by the previous administration. Eliminate some tax exemptions. The answer is yes to all of these suggestions. But more is needed to put the Kansas economy back on track, and allow the budget to accommodate constitutionally adequate funding of public education.
The larger solution all parties can agree on is that we must expand our economy. We must develop trade outside our state borders, bring in new business, and keep the bright young minds that fuel our future here in the state.
Soon after I first was elected Mayor of Wichita in 2007, the country plunged into a terrible recession. Leaders from our city had to make hard decisions about how we would make it through. Wichita is the largest economy in the state and we knew we had to get it right.
First, we realized we must take our goods and services beyond our state borders and develop trading partners across the world. We developed the Global Air Capitol-China program. We delivered on three initiatives that brought in more than $6,800,000 from exports to our own state in 2016: 1. completed the Wichita-South Central Regional export plan – the first of its kind in the state; 2. led the city’s first business trade mission to China; and 3. opened the first Air Capitol liaison office in Xi’an, China so we could sell Kansas aviation products in China. Similarly, the next governor must open doors for our locally owned businesses to compete across the globe.
Second, during an uncertain time when we could have played it safe, we continued making progress and gained momentum on collaborative efforts to redevelop downtown. This created a vibrant urban core, instilling community pride and growing the tax base by attracting more businesses, housing units and traffic to the city’s center.
Third, we worked to stop the brain drain by ensuring a quality of life that could compete with similar cities in the U.S. We have great academic institutions and some of the brightest minds in the country. But how often have local businesses struggled to recruit the best talent, and keep them from leaving Kansas? These bright minds drive our economy forward and create new business opportunities and sustain our communities.
Finally, we gave millennials a voice by creating the Mayor’s Youth Council. Their input helped develop a city where young people want to live and play. This huge generation is an economic force that will support an aging population in our state. If they leave in large numbers, the state will be in big trouble. So the next governor must listen to their ideas and make sure we provide a state that will keep their talents, creativity, spending power and tax dollars in this state.
We all must work together to take big bold steps to fix a stalled economy and find funding to educate our youth. Kansans have always risen to the challenge and I believe we will do it now. With your help, working together, I believe we can put Kansas back on track and keep the best and the brightest here at home.