If the state economy levels off or declines, what steps will the state need to take to maintain services?
The best thing to do is continue growing this economy. I'm proud to say that under my leadership we've had 27 out of 29 months of job growth and 76,000 more Kansas are working now than when I took office. We're on the right path. Four years ago, when we faced a billion dollar deficit and economic recession, I cut waste, streamlined government and found over a $1 billion in savings and efficiencies. I maintained services, increased education funding, and provided tax cuts and credits.
I will take the same approach that the average Kansan has to when they fall on hard times. I will establish priorities, make tough choices, and do the best we can with the resource we have. I will not raise taxes or run a deficit. Neither is in the best long term interests of the state. I will work to reduce government size, waste, and inefficiencies so that we can better handle an economic slowdown.
The Governor's school finance plan will leave the state short $216 million in the third year of the program. Stripping programs such as law enforcement, health care, or senior services will cause hardships for Kansans and raising taxes will hurt job growth. Targeted tax reductions will spur economic growth, as receipts from income and sales taxes increase. With more Kansans working, businesses developing, and more goods bought and sold, overall tax revenues will increase.
What are the top three non-budget issues that should get the state's attention in the next four years?
Illegal immigration, eminent domain, alternative fuels, and voter initiatives. (I know that is 4, but all are important.)
The top three issues facing the state are making sure Kansans receive the best education, using those educated Kansans to continuing growing the economy, especially in new fields like Bioscience, and throughout the entire process keep an emphasis on accountability. What makes these items non-budgetary is the level of excellence we expect. Quantity is what shows up on a budget, quality is what I will enforce as Governor.
Almost 10% of Kansans rely on KPERS, which currently has a multi-billion dollar unfunded liability. We must begin planning now. Kansas is feeling the effects of an influx of illegal immigration, we must look at ways to address this issue by removing special benefits for people in this country illegally. Finally, we must address the health of our rural economy, both problems such as declining population and drought, and opportunities such as alternative energy.
If elected, will you change the three-year school funding bill that has been approved by the Kansas Supreme Court? If so, why and in what way?
We have just made the largest commitment in public schools in the history of the State. Good schools create a great economy because businesses know that working minds drive a working world. I am appalled that my opponent, the Senator, has already stated that he will not support the plan passed this year.
I have no plans to change the three year plan, I will veto any measure that attempts to decrease it, and I will continue to make sure that with increased funding comes increased accountability, so that every dollar is used wisely.
Our current Governor made a promise to the children of Kansas with no plan to pay for it. Our state will be short by at least $216 million if our economy does not improve. To meet the promise made to Kansas school children, our economy must begin growing faster than it has during the last three years. I have presented a plan to get our economy growing, and pay for the education bill.
Clearly, the Supreme Court overstepped its constitutional authority in mandating a funding level. This will very likely lead to a deficit and/or higher taxes, both of which are unacceptable. Therefore, the budget will probably have to be changed to remain fiscally responsible. This is something the Supreme Court is obviously not concerned about, but I am.
How would you deal with the $600 million worth of deferred maintenance at the state universities?
Even though I inherited a billion dollar deficit when I took office, funding for higher education has increased under my administration, and my budgets have been balanced. I will keep higher education a priority in my second term. I have worked around the state, and the globe, to make sure our regents institutions remain pinnacles of research and scholarship in areas such as Bioscience. Staying a leader in this field, and many others, will bring in the private dollars, grants, and royalties needed to supplement the state aid to our fine institutions.
We must examine all state agencies, including the universities, to eliminate waste and inefficiencies. We need to prioritize the maintenance needs of the universities and address them in a systematic and cost-effective manner.
Our Regents Universities are beginning to show the signs of neglect. Quality facilities are necessary to keep our best scholars here in Kansas. With the current K-12 funding plan, the state will spend $800 million more than state revenues over the next 3 years, without any increases in Regents spending. We must protect the long term investment of Kansas taxpayers by ensuring that critical maintenance and upkeep is performed on our educational infrastructure.
Will you sign a bill that has a general state tax increase? How about a tax cut? Do you think the tax system needs restructuring, and if so, in what way?
Kansas already has higher taxes than our neighboring states, making it harder for our businesses and families to thrive. As Governor, I will provide the legislature with a balanced budget, including a school finance plan, which will allow for tax cuts and not require increased taxes. We must control spending, while using targeted tax cuts such as a $500 increase in the dependent exemption, reduced income taxes, and a 10% investment credit to encourage investment.
I would not sign a general state tax increase. My goal is stop the growth of government and to reduce waste and inefficiencies that exist. An audit of all state agencies may be a good idea. We should limit growth of the budget to around 2% a year and establish a "savings account" to use when the economy hits hard times. Once that is done, we need to reduce taxes. We should also consider reducing taxes as a way to stimulate the state economy and to keep businesses from leaving the state.
Four years ago I inherited a $1 billion deficit. Everybody thought that a tax increase was the only solution. But I balanced all four of my budgets, protected services and increased funding to education - without a tax increase. I have provided tax credits to small businesses, phased out the inheritance tax, and cut taxes on new machinery and equipment. I plan to continue the policies that have helped grow our economy and put our state on sound fiscal shape. Meanwhile, in 2002, my opponent voted for the largest tax increase in state history.
Do you support either statutory or constitutional measures that would set limits on spending and taxation?
Hard and fast limits on spending or taxation would, in the long term, not be workable and would strip the legislature of their flexibility to address the varying needs of the state. As a former school board president, I am comfortable with giving voters a say on tax increases and would be willing to consider such measures.
I oppose TABOR. I point to the experience of our sister state, Colorado. The restrictions TABOR put on Colorado when it tried such an amendment resulted in teachers average pay declining from 30th to 50th in the nation, the number of children receiving vital childhood immunizations going from 24th to 43rd in the nation, and support for higher education dropping to 57 percent of the national average.
I will not put the future of our children and our education system at such risk. However, last year my opponent said he was undecided on TABOR. Then, this year in the primary, he said "no true Republican" could oppose TABOR. That kind of statement concerns me.
I support a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights and I believe any tax increase (city, county, and state) needs to be approved by the voters. The tax burden for Kansans has steadily increased over the last four years and we can not allow this to continue.
What changes need to be made in health care in Kansas?
Prevention remains our best long-term health care solution. We need to focus more on issues such as youth smoking and childhood obesity. In 2005 I sponsored legislation, passed unanimously by the Legislature, which created the Kansas Health Policy Authority, that has promoted prevention, wellness, and will control cost by making quality and cost information available for patients to make smarter choices. I successfully championed legislation to help uninsured and low income Kansans afford prescription medications.
This past year, I proposed providing healthcare to every Kansas child from birth to age five. It's affordable, it's practical, and it saves us money by preventing future, more costly, illnesses. Quite frankly, every child deserves a healthy start in life. Unfortunately, the legislature said no, opting instead to build a new swine barn at the State Fair Grounds. I will put this measure back on the table in January, and hopefully we'll have more legislators who share my commitment to all Kansas children.
We need to encourage competition among the insurance companies and increase the options for the citizens. I am particularly interested in small businesses and individuals pooling their assets to reduce cost. In order to deal with this issue effectively, we must be able to determine the facts without the undue influence of special interest groups in Topeka. As a physician assistant, I am aware of the many issues involved in providing quality, cost-effective medical care and I am prepared to tackle this issue in an aggressive yet non-partisan manner to do what is best for all of Kansas.
Do you support expansion of gambling in Kansas?
There is already gaming in Kansas. We have four casinos in this State. Unfortunately, they don't pay Kansas taxes. Kansans send their money over the state line at casinos in Missouri and Oklahoma. It's time we expand gaming in a way that has local approval and benefits Kansas by promoting tourism, creating jobs, and generating revenue.
I do not support expansion of gambling. It will NOT solve funding issues as many would have us believe. I am particularly opposed to state-run gaming. It is not the role of government to run casinos. I do, however, understand that many citizens want to vote on this issue. How can I be opposed to that? I am not afraid of democracy. That is why I support voter initiatives. Voter initiatives will empower the citizens and enable them to vote on issues regardless of what the special interests in Topeka want. People who want to vote on gambling, a Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and the protection of personal property rights, should be allowed to do so.
I am strongly against Kansas becoming the first state in the nation to get in the business of owning casinos. First, gambling is not the answer to Kansas' budget woes, as our experience with pari-mutual betting and the lottery show. Second, government-owned casinos, as our current Governor has endorsed, would open the door to corruption in government. The money from state owned casinos would become a dominating influence in state government.