Republican Kansas statehouse candidates on the issues: Bringing jobs to Kansas and growing the state economy

Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for office address ahead of this summer’s primary elections. Based on the input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for Republican candidates running for seats in the Kansas House and Senate.

We’ll be publishing the candidates’ responses to one item per day each day this week. Today we’re publishing the candidates’ responses to item three:

What should the state government be doing to bring more good jobs to Kansas and support the growth of the state’s economy?

Kansas Senate District 10

Tom Cox

There are a few answers to this: Education. Workforce development. Regulatory environment. Entrepreneurial & Incentive Programs

Businesses will only come and add jobs to places they can fill those jobs easily. This makes workforce development the most important part of the equation. This is K-higher education and everything in between. By ensuring we have the programs to create a diverse workforce able to meet the growing demands of businesses we will attract companies to Kansas. It is more than just college degrees, it is strong trade programs, apprenticeships, and associate degrees to help people who know what they want to specialize in achieving those goals.

A solid regulatory environment needs to be established to ensure that diverse companies can grow and be flexible within the state. A ridged system can suppress out-of-the-box thinking and new ideas. One of the major issues discussed is reforming occupational licensing for certain professions. This includes increased opportunities for reciprocity between states and requiring a cost-benefit analysis before creating new or additional regulatory hurdles.

Additionally, making sure we have strong programs and government resources to support the entrepreneurial climate of the state. Kansas has some of the best Angel-Investor tax credit programs in the nation. We should be expanding this program to help more start-ups to start in Kansas to benefit this program. While at the same time looking at other effective public-private partnerships and programs that would help companies grow here.

Mike Thompson (incumbent)

Kansans needs to be a hub for businesses, both large and small. To do that, we need to look at everything from our tax rates and regulatory policy to ensuring there are not too many hurdles to setting up a business in Kansas. I would prefer that any economic incentives be available to all, rather than policies which pick the winners. We should also do everything we can to keep our economy open. Through all of these ideas, we can both grow jobs and then keep them here.

Kansas Senate District 11

John Skubal (incumbent)

Kansans have a great story to tell about our state. We have internationally rated schools, stable local governments, low cost housing and educated, hard workers. When I was on the Overland Park city council, I put together the first 3 P (Public, Private Partnership) in our state at 159th Street and 69 Highway. That interchange produced over one billion dollars in construction and included a hospital expansion that has produced high paying jobs. Other projects include the Overland Park downtown revitalization and Town Center in Leawood. I know how to do this!

Kellie Warren

Competition and free-market principles, based on market supply and demand, are the best, most fair way to encourage economic development. State policies that provide certainty for our businesses, big and small, allow them to plan and grow. A fair tax policy across the board for all businesses, and not overburdening them with regulation, are the types of policy that businesses can count on and incentivizes them to make Kansas their home and stay here.

Kansas House District 18

Cathy Gordon

1. Get business back open, whether remotely or on location.

2. Expand labor forces, support apprenticeship programs and limit liabilities.

3. Promote innovation and entrepreneurship with creative capital investment ideals.


Calvin Vandegrift

As to growing the economy in the state of Kansas, the two main things that come to my mind are that of lowering taxes, and phasing out any lock down orders currently in place as a result of the virus. The lockdown has severely affected our economy, both at the state, and the federal level.

Kansas House District 20

Jane Dirks

I would support exploring economic incentives that are available to all businesses which creates jobs in Kansas. We need to be careful about picking winners and losers. In addition, we need to make sure that people are well trained. I would like to encourage graduating seniors to consider going to a technical college. As machinists and other skilled trades are beginning to retire, there is a shortage of well-trained individuals to replace them. These are good jobs.


Jan Kessinger (incumbent)

We must invest in technology, innovation and research to attract bright minds, talented workers and forward looking businesses. A Brookings Institute study shows that the greatest strength in attracting business to Kansas is our education system.

In Johnson County have a great example how innovation and research builds an economy coming out of a recession. I am on the Board of Directors of the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT), a great model for growing the state’s economy.

JCERT is a partnership among Johnson County, the University of Kansas and Kansas State University designed to create economic stimulus and a higher quality of life through new facilities for research and educational opportunities.

Johnson County voters voted a 1/8 cent sales tax to fund JCERT in November 2008 – just after the beginning of the great recession. JCERT proved to be a catalyst for growth. It is on track to create $1.2 billion in economic impact in its first 20 years. That’s a boost of $60 million to our economy each year. Rather than seeing the current economic situation as woeful, we should seize the opportunities throughout Kansas as we did locally with JCERT.

JCERT developed the National Food and Animal Health Institute at K-State Olathe; the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway, Kansas; and the BEST Building with several degree and certificate offerings in business, engineering, science and technology at the KU Edwards Campus. Those programs attract new business, skilled workers and drive the economy.

The Kansas Commerce Department has restructured and is on track to grow business. It is now fully staffed with a team to recruit businesses to Kansas based on our superior workforce, cost of living, infrastructure and lifestyle.

This year, I worked on a bi-partisan plan to restructure STAR Bonds where we offer incentives, but with great accountability and transparency. We have also worked to incentivize students to stay and work in Kansas while at the same time, we incentivize businesses to hire and support Kansas students, especially in the trades.

We must work with schools – high schools, trade schools, community colleges and universities to design programs to train workers specifically for businesses we attract. We must also invest in infrastructure so manufactured goods can get to market easily. Our geographic location is a huge asset. Infrastructure goes beyond roads and rail. We must also invest in high speed internet access throughout the state.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item four:

The governor’s stay-at-home orders during the initial COVID-19 outbreak in Kansas sparked a debate about the role of government in working to ensure the public’s health. Were the state government’s actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 justified? What role do you believe the state should be taking in addressing the pandemic?