Three of the four candidates looking to succeed outgoing Rep. Randy Powell in the District 30 seat in the Kansas House of Representative shared their views on taxation, school funding and infrastructure, among other topics, in a forum hosted by the Lenexa and Olathe Chambers of Commerce Monday.
Republican Colleen Webster and Democrats Matthew Calcara and Brandon Woodard took part in the forum at Olathe City Hall. Republican Wendy Bingesser was invited but did not attend.
Here are some of the highlights from the candidates’ comments during the forum.
- Calling the Brownback tax plan “pernicious,” he said he wanted to expand income tax bands to make the system more progressive so wealthier people paid higher a higher percentage of their income in taxes than lower income people. “Right now sales taxes are doing far more of the work than they should be,” Calcara said.
- Calcara said investing in Pre-K and post-secondary education were the best investments the state could make to grow the economy. He said pushing back against a “climate of fear” targeted at people of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ community was important to making Kansas a place talented young workers would want to live.
- On K-12 funding, Calcara said he wanted to see the debate shift from arguing about whether to provide a minimum amount of constitutional funding to discussing where the state could make “targeted investments” to make Kansas schools “world class.” He said Kansas schools have been incredibly efficient with their resources.
- On taxes, Webster said she wanted to see food tax reduced, and suggested the state could recoup revenue from food sales tax by adding sales tax to out-of-state internet purchases. Webster said the state has dug a big hole for itself, and expects it will take some time to get out. She said she wanted to look at capping property taxes for seniors.
- Webster said funding public schools and keeping them high quality were the state’s best strategy for growing the economy and jobs. She also said she wanted to see the Department of Commerce get more resources.
- On K-12 funding, Webster said she was happy that the Supreme Court decision would keep schools open this fall. She criticized efforts to withhold funding from K-12 school. “[It’s] just ridiculous that our state doesn’t want to fund public education,” Webster said. “And I really think there’s an agenda out there to bring public schools down, to underfund them and then say, well, look, they’re not successful.”
- Woodard said he wanted to see a “fair, balanced and predictable tax policy.” He wants to see Kansas add a new tax bracket for single earners making $500,000 a year or more and couples making $1 million a year or more. He said he wanted to see the state move toward the complete elimination of sales tax on food.
- To spur economic growth, Woodard recommended increasing investment in higher education funding. He said those opportunities should be not only in traditional college and junior colleges, but in vocational-technical education programs that prepare people for good paying jobs.
- On K-12 funding, Woodard said he thought it was especially important to ensure that state funding was both adequate and equitable, noting that funding levels in Olathe Public Schools and the Shawnee Mission School District, parts of which are in District 30, differed. He said finding ways to fund resources for counseling, paraprofessionals and nurses would help ensure all kids had a chance at a great education.