The following questions were asked by the editorial board at Wichita Eagle. Below are my answers.
What is the biggest issue facing the state or Legislature in the next year, and what would you advocate doing about it?
We continue to face a stagnant and unstable federal economy that threatens economic progress in our state. Thankfully, our current efforts to reform state tax and spending policies are having a measurable success and we ended the year with a very healthy $434 million dollar positive balance. We must continue to control spending and prioritize core functions of government.
Why are you the best choice for voters?
As a small business owner, I understand taxes, budgeting, the economy and the importance of job growth. As a father of a special needs child, I have navigated health care and share a great deal of empathy for parents who struggle. As a church elder, I know that our policies must have a moral and just foundation. As a current legislative leader, my experience is invaluable to effect the right kind of reform.
What specific changes would you make to policy to provide more good-paying and fulfilling jobs for Kansans?
Two years ago we made corrective policy changes in Kansas. We must continue working to become a low-tax state with a non-invasive regulatory environment. That stability will foster predictability for the private sector job creators to make long-term investments in business, jobs and people. We must continue to enhance opportunities for technical education in Kansas, creating a well-trained work force. We need more taxpayers, not more and higher taxes.
How would you change the state’s laws or budget to improve K-12 ?
The legislature worked with the court and more than adequately funded public schools. Education dollars were equitably distributed, providing record levels of funding and enacting necessary new policies. Now, the formula must be simplified to assure that funding gets to the classroom where it belongs. The “suitable provision for finance of the educational interests” clause in the Constitution must be clearly defined by the legislature and educators, not the courts.
Would you advocate any changes in tax policy or in budgeting?
I have successfully implemented property tax transparency and accountability, reformed the appeals process, and worked to lower and stabilize our income tax rates. Now, to provide stability and long-term predictability in state government, I would accomplish the following: pay off debt, establish a rainy-day fund for unexpected budget shortfalls, establish a disaster relief fund for weather or other emergencies, and implement “priority-based budgeting”.
Do you think public school teachers should have the protection of state-mandated hearings before they can be fired? Why or why not?
Teachers are not state employees. Local school boards initiate personnel policies related to hiring and firing. Those policies should be negotiated and enacted at that level based on the educational needs of the local district.
Should Kansas participate in Medicaid expansion in any form? Why or why not, and what form?
No. Medicaid programs are already over-expanded. The federal budget is substantively over extended now due in part to ever escalating entitlement programs. Those costs are being pushed to the states, causing our budgets to inflate beyond the taxpayers’ ability to pay. The best program for low-income citizens is a good technical education and a higher paying job, not more government entitlement programs.
How do you define yourself politically?
As a practical conservative. I believe government should be limited to core functions and accomplish what the private sector cannot. Our policies should protect individual freedoms, expressions of faith, traditional family values, and promote free markets. A primary function of government is to promote justice while protecting people and property.
What is the best decision the Legislature made in the past year? Why?
The Court emphasized and the Legislature agreed that the equitable distribution of funds and student outcomes are essential to the adequacy of education funding. The Legislature appropriated $134 million and addressed the equitable distribution of funds per the ruling, and provided $84 million of property tax relief as well. Numerous reforms and accountability standards were enacted that are geared to student achievement as opposed to growing a bloated bureaucracy.
What decision by the Legislature did you oppose or regret and why? What would you have done differently?
I entered a bill late in the session that would have established a protected rainy day fund for revenue shortfalls and a disaster relief fund for emergencies. My regret is the timing. It was just too late in the two-year legislative cycle to work on it.
Do you support keeping the state’s ban on same-sex marriage? If a federal court overturns the ban in the future, what should the state do in response?
Citizens in 104 of 105 counties voted overwhelmingly to support the traditional definition of marriage in a constitutional amendment. I voted for and strongly support that decision. It is disappointing to think that a handful of unelected judges could tell an entire state that their constitution is unconstitutional. At a minimum, the state should protect the first amendment rights of individuals and businesses as it relates to their religious liberties and free speech.
Do you think the Legislature should legalize any form of marijuana in Kansas? Explain.
No. Legalizing recreational drug use is dangerous and sends mixed signals to our youth. States that have legalized marijuana are already reaping negative results from their actions. Nothing good can come from this. If we need to have a discussion about medical marijuana, then doctors and pharmacists should be leading that discussion.
Do you support or oppose renewable energy standards? Explain.
We have currently met or are very close to those mandates now. I strongly support an energy portfolio that is diverse and protected from outside threats. State policies must allow free and competitive markets regarding pricing, technology deployment, selection of fuels and suppliers. Government should not mandate or limit energy choices that are arbitrary and politically driven. We must rely on our existing technology while future technologies are being developed.
How would you handle political differences as a lawmaker? Do bipartisanship or compromise play a role in the legislative process?
Bipartisanship and compromise are the norm, not the exception. Every bill is a product of hearings, bipartisan discussion, compromise and voting. After a bill passes through the committee process in the House and Senate there has been input from numerous sources, and most bills pass with wide support. On those bills where legitimate differences still exist, it is imperative to continue the open discussions and compromise on the wording or the bill won’t pass.
Should groceries be exempt from sales tax?
In the previous administration Kansas became part of a coalition of states that adopted the “Streamlined Sales Tax and Use Agreement” which I strongly opposed. Our sales tax policies must conform to standards in that agreement and to the multiple definitions of “groceries”, making it very difficult to pass anything meaningful. This kind of exemption must be examined in the totality of tax policy and not as an isolated part.
Has the KanCare program been successful so far in your opinion? If not, what changes should be made?
Services are provided more efficiently under Kancare, saving dollars and allowing more individuals to get off the waiting list. More people are receiving primary and home care, relieving the burden on emergency rooms. The program must be well monitored to assure that individuals receive necessary care and that appropriate claims are not denied. A pattern of late reimbursements to providers has emerged. They must be paid promptly and all claims handled quickly.
What, if any, changes would you like to see made to the state’s abortion laws?
It’s time to examine heart beat legislation that eliminates abortions after a developed circulatory system in the unborn child. Abortion is the taking of a human life at any stage of development. Government should protect life from conception to natural death.
What, if any changes would you like to see made to the state’s gun laws?
Kansas has been very assertive in protecting our 2nd Amendment rights and we must remain vigilant in that effort. In the next legislative session there will likely be some tweaks to further define building security laws that affect local units of government.
Do you believe the state adequately addresses the needs of low-income and disabled residents? If not, how would you change things?
As a father of a special needs child, I think we can always do better for those who cannot help themselves. HB2453 provided incentives for employers to hire disabled individuals, while allowing them to return to Medicaid if their employment is unsuccessful. The government low-income safety net is adequate, but we can do a better job of partnering with private sector and non-profit charitable organizations to help those in need.
Should grocery stores and convenience stores be allowed to sell full-strength beer, wine and alcohol? Why or why not?
I have a mixed reaction. First, it is a legal product that is already accessible in eating establishments and retail outlets. With the appropriate oversight, government shouldn’t choose who can sell it and who can’t. Secondly, the nature of this product requires a great deal of due diligence to see that it does not get into the hands of minors or those who will abuse the product. More accessibility diminishes that oversight.
What, if any, changes would you like to see made to affirm the rights of Kansas in its dealings with the federal government?
We are a united group of sovereign states. It is incumbent upon state and federal officials to protect the 10th amendment, which has seen significant erosion from excessive federal control. Additionally, we have abrogated our own rights when we accept federal monies that have far-reaching strings attached. In many cases those “strings” have become an entangling web, making our state overly obligated to federal rules and regulations.
Who do you most admire and why?
My dad passed away too early and I wanted to know him better. He was innovative, adventurous, and I miss having an adult relationship with him.
What other issue do you feel strongly about?
I care about our individual liberties that are under assault from an overreaching federal government. I care about the reprehensible trafficking of our children. I care about our faltering national security that puts us in danger. I care about stabilizing government so that necessary services are on time and predictable.
How could Kansas government increase transparency for taxpayers?
It starts with an attitude that money for government services comes from the hard work of the citizens and that we have a stewardship responsibility. Transparency helps to breed trust. There are limited occasions where individual privacy must be protected, but government must be open and accountable to the citizens.