The four candidates seeking the District 18 seat in the Kansas House of Representatives shared their views on some of the most pressing issues facing the state in the coming session, including K-12 funding and tax policy.
Republicans Eric Jenkins, a Shawnee City Councilman who was his party’s nominee for the seat in 2016, and Cathy Gordon, a midwife with experience starting businesses; and Democrats Cindy Neighbor, the incumbent, and Andy Hurla, a first time candidates, met at the Shawnee Civic Center for the forum hosted by the Lenexa and Shawnee Chambers of Commerce.
Here’s where the candidates stood on some of the biggest topics discussed:
State tax policy
- Eric Jenkins: Jenkins said he had strong feelings about the total amount of taxes Kansans pay, noting that in addition to income taxes, residents pay sales and property taxes that go to Topeka as well. He agreed with Gordon that the state should be doing more to implement recommendations from efficiency studies. He believes there are likely services the state is providing that don’t match the needs of modern residents. Jenkins said “growing the economy” was the best way to increase state revenues.
- Cathy Gordon: Gordon said her desire was for a tax policy that focused on “revenue first,” that promoted programs and policies that made Kansas a safe place for everyone, and that stressed efficient use of resources. She said she was disappointed that the legislature had not done more to implement the efficiency study the state paid Alvarez and Marsel to conduct in 2016.
- Cindy Neighbor: Neighbor said the legislature’s moves to restore income tax rates closer to what Kansans paid before the 2012 cuts was necessary to stabilize the state’s finances. “We were on a cliff,” she said, noting the sweeps of funds intended for KDOT and KPERS. Neighbor said it’s always hard to raise taxes, but that the state was in bad shape and needed to have its “three-legged stool” tax policy shored up.
- Andy Hurla: Hurla said Kansas needed to focus on growing its population to increase tax revenues. He said “a lot of healthy taxpayers are leaving” Kansas. He wants the state to set a goal of growing the population to 3.5 million by 2030.
- Eric Jenkins: Jenkins said he had a “real problem with saying funding is not suitable” for K-12 education. He noted that total spending on education is close to $300,000 per classroom, and said that for that level of investment, “we’d better get some good outcomes.” He said he supported the idea of a constitutional amendment clarifying how much money “suitable” funding would be.
- Cathy Gordon: Gordon said she viewed education spending as an investment in Kansas children. Her husband has been a teacher for 39 years, and between him and other teachers in their family, she had heard much talk about difficulties getting supplies they need for the classroom. She said with more kids facing disparities at home, schools need resources to educate kids.
- Cindy Neighbor: Neighbor called education the “economic engine” of Kansas. She critiqued Jenkins’ figures on classroom spending, noting that the total spending figure now includes money spent on KPERS, and that certain fund for things like special education and transportation cannot be spent on any other items.
- Andy Hurla: Hurla called education a “virtuous circle” that built wealth for the community by creating a strong workforce.
You can see our livestreamed video of the entire forum here.