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State House candidate Ann Mah to chat

October 10, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Ann Mah is running for re-election in Kansas House District 53. She is a Democrat.

Moderator:

Hi, this is reporter Mike Belt. I will be the moderator for this chat with Ann Mah, Democratic state representative for the 53rd District, which includes eastern Shawnee County and western Douglas County.
Welcome, Ann. Thanks for being here.

Ann Mah:

Thanks, Mike, for allowing me to participate in this public forum. It's a great opportunity to visit directly with the voters that we don't often get. Looking forward to voters' questions.

Moderator:

Let me ask the first question. Everybody is concerned about what is happening with the stock market this week. Any idea how the national economic situation might affect the state and what the Kansas Legislature might do this year, or is it too early?

Ann Mah:

Yes, I believe it will impact Kansas and no, it is not too early. While Kansas is faring better than other states, we can expect to see a negative impact on state revenues with a drop in sales tax and income tax receipts. The Governor already asked state agencies to determine how they would deal with a 2-5% drop. But our biggest expenses are in school funding and transportation, so we have some difficult decisions ahead to make on our 2010 budget.

jrk:

What will be your major legislative priorities for the next two years.

Ann Mah:

Great question. We need to bring more jobs to our state and train our workers to do those jobs. This takes a two-pronged approach. We already set in motion incentives to bring jobs and investments to Kansas and they are working. The aircraft industry needs thousands of workers in the WIchita area. Other employers (like Garmin) say they need hundreds of workers. But we need to train our workers for these good jobs. So this session I am continuing my work to bring our technical training up to speed. Last year I sponsored a bill to revamp technical education and this year we will see it through. So with help for businesses to grow and better job training, we should do better than many other states.

AlexParker:

T. Boone Pickens calls the U.S. the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. What is your stance on investing in wind energy, and what do you think its benefits are environmentally and economically? Also, what is the future of coal-fire energy in Kansas?

Ann Mah:

I strongly support the development of wind energy in Kansas. One reason I voted against the coal bill last session was that it no balanced energy plan and totally ignored net metering for wind energy. We are going to make our 2010 goal of 10% of electricity from wind this year. So it's a good sign that we are two years ahead on that initiative. The state can do even more with the development of transmission lines to deliver wind energy where it is needed. We only need a limited amount of coal to get us through the next ten years when we might actually have "clean" coal. I would support the Governor's position that we should not invest in more coal plants than we need until then.

gdiepenb:

How would you like to see the Legislature handle transportation needs in the state if you are re-elected?

Ann Mah:

We are doing the right things to develop that plan. The Secretary is working throughout the state to get local input and she is developing a multi-faceted plan that incorporates rail, biking, air transportation and more along with traditional highway/road development. I think we should not do a full ten-year plan, but a shorter (5-year) plan. We found out this last round that at the end of the ten years our needs changed and our money was committed to projects that were less important. So a 5-year plan with more flexibility will serve us better.

Moderator:

I had a couple of questions e-mailed to me directly and I'll pass them on. One of them notes that a good portion of the money for completing the South Lawrence Trafficway will probably come from the state. Do you have a position on whether the highway should be built through the Baker Wetlands.

Ann Mah:

No, I don't. I have not been involved in that issue and have not seen the pros and cons. We may get to address that this time and I'll be interested in seeing the report on the environmental impact.

Moderator:

If economic conditions force the state to consider a tax increase, would you be more likely to increase sales, income or property tax?

Ann Mah:

Before we consider a tax increase, we need to be sure we're getting the most out of our tax dollars now. I'm working now on a commission that is looking at reducing duplication in our state government and making sure that we are measuring agency performance. If, after that, we need to increase taxes, I would ask my constituents how they want to handle it. In the past, surveys of my constituents came back preferring to add casino gaming first, then income tax increases. But I don't think we can make much headway by increasing taxes. We do better by making smart decisions that expand the tax base rather than raising taxes.

Moderator:

This will be our last question.

gdiepenb:

What would be your higher education priorities if you are re-elected?

Ann Mah:

We need a comprehensive plan to make post-secondary education available to all Kansans. It is clear that to compete in a global economy our citizens must engage in lifelong learning. We need to be thinking at least K-14 instead of K-12. I am working toward making sure that Kansas provides more affordable post-secondary training through support of our four-year institutions and improved/expanded 2-year institutions. I supported, for example, the expansion of the KU school of pharmacy, the cancer research efforts at KU Med, and the expansion of the KU family physician training in Wichita, as well as scholarships and other incentives for careers where we are short workers. But we also need to get every person possible in some kind of post-secondary training and I'll be focusing this year on two-year technical training, where we need 60% of our workers to be trained.

Moderator:

Ann, thanks again for joining us today. If anyone has any other questions, do you have a Web site or e-mail address they can go to?

Ann Mah:

Thanks, again, Mike for the opportunity to visit here today. I can be reached by email at Lmah@cox.net. My website is at www.annmah.org. I encourage voters to visit my site, participate in my voter polls, and contact me any time with questions or concerns. I also do an email newsletter, and if anyone (constituent or not) wants to receive it, just write and let me know.

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