Scott Morgan chats about Kansas 2nd State Senate district race

October 14, 2008

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

Scott Morgan

Scott Morgan chats about Kansas 2nd State Senate district race

Moderator:

Hello, this is Jonathan Kealing online editor here at LJWorld.com. I'll be your moderator. We're having minor technical problems, but we hope to preserve through. Scott, thanks for joining us.

Scott Morgan:

It's great to be here. I look forward to answering people's questions.

commuter:

If you are elected to the senate, would you still be on the School Board?

Scott Morgan:

I could imagine staying on the board through the search for a new superintendent but my assumption is that I would leave the board at a time that made sense to the board.

larryvillerocks:

What is your position on the South Lawrence Trafficway?

Scott Morgan:

I think it is important for us to finish the SLT, preserve and expand the wetlands as has been proposed and move on to the many other transportation issues facing this community. There has been much made of the "bridge to nowhere" that was proposed in Alaska. However, we have a bridge to nowhere right in here in Lawrence and it's at the south end of town over Iowa Street.

This is issue is a major difference between myself and my opponent. The state will be devising a new transportation plan to cover the next several years. Funding will be far less than what it will take to meet all of the state's needs. I think it is very important that Lawrence be represented by a Senator who supports the SLT and is willing to work for its inclusion and funding.

larryvillerocks:

What's your position on a smoking ban?

Scott Morgan:

As a nonsmoker, I have benefited greatly from the ban in Lawrence. It has been wonderful being able to go into any restaurant and not worry about second-hand smoke. Yet I do not take lightly the government stepping in and taking away other people's ability to make their own choices. In this case though you have a situation of other people's right to avoid smoke. I have stated that I support a band that was county option like our liquor laws. I think this is one of many issues that I would welcome input from the Lawrence community as the legislature addressed the matter. The ultimate goal is to reduce smoking and the damage it costs individuals and the community.

donrichards:

To continue adequately funding Kansas public schools, what in the state budget would you be willing to cut?

Scott Morgan:

One thing about my time on the Lawrence School Board is that I unfortunately have experience with making tough budget choices. The state reduced real funding for education in my first term. We were faced with the very difficult decisions of where to make cuts. Despite what a lot of people on the outside may think, there are no obvious areas left to make cuts. If there were, they would have been made a long time ago. School board members do not naturally enjoy making people mad and easy cuts are what we would love to find. The reality is though that you have to determine what your priorities are and then go in and prioritize all of your spending. You then fund the top priorities and go down the list as far as the money will take you and then you start cutting. This is a much harder but better way of addressing funding problems than a simplistic across the board percent cut. I paid a political price for making these tough choices, which included closing some elementary schools. This is a difference between myself and my opponent. You cannot vote "present" on votes at the school board, you have to vote yes or no. My opponent as voted "present but not voting" far more than any other Senator. That is not a good way to make sure that Lawrence's voice is being heard.

LawrenceVoter:

According to the June 10th edition of the Lawrence Journal World, you said you "didn't know how (you) would have voted on the coal plant legislation." Can you tell us now how you would have voted?

Moderator:

Here's the article referenced:
http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2008/jun/10/scott_morgan_vie_senate_seat/

Scott Morgan:

I have always stated that I believed there was a compromise to be had with regard to the coal plants. I have never changed that opinion. I believe it is of fundamental importance to our future that we adopt a long-overdue energy policy. The current debate on coal plants offers a wonderful opportunity to force the decisions that frankly should have been made in the 1970's. I think compromises such that offered by Governor Sebelius for one clean coal plant now with adoption of a comprehensive energy policy and second plant to be considered after implementation of the energy policy. We need to wean ourselves of our reliance on fossil fuels and move toward alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and authorization of net metering. I have suggested that Kansas consider a revenue-neutral carbon tax to make fossil fuels better reflect their actual cost to our state. The goal of the coal plant debate is not to score political points. The goal should be moving our state forward (far forward) in meeting our energy needs while protecting our environment. I suspect that I may neither political extreme happy but I have found the real progress in government comes from the middle.

thinkagain:

You've spent a lot of money on ads and spend a lot of time criticizing your opponents' voting record in terms of number of votes cast but not much time talking about HOW you would vote. Would you have voted yes to support the children's health insurance expansion initiative?

Scott Morgan:

Actually, I haven't spent a whole lot of money on ads because I don't have a whole lot of money. I have, however, criticized the incumbent for voting "present but passing" far more than any other Senator. Whatever the issue involved, Lawrence needs to be relevant again in the Senate. The legislative process requires an ability to reach across political and geographical boundaries to work with others of differing viewpoints to reach compromises that allow us to move forward to meet the needs of our state. Health care is an excellent example of where preaching from one position does no good if no progress is made. We must have a comprehensive health care plan that while addressing the glaring need for health insurance coverage for our children, also addresses the overall problem of inadequate and expensive health insurance for all. As the owner of a small business, I have learned far too well how ridiculous the annual changes in cost and coverage for health insurance are. As a member of the school board, I have learned far too often how much money we spend doing what is right for our employees instead of being able to put that money into the classrooms.

DouglasCountySucks:

What should the state do in the case of Roger Pine not living in the district he represents ?

Scott Morgan:

Roger Pine does live in the district he represents.

donrichards:

What have you done in your last term on the Lawrence School Board to build relationships with members of the Kansas Legislature?

Scott Morgan:

I was elected back onto the school board in April of last year and took office on July 1st. I believe I have solid relationships with Barbara Ballard, Tom Sloan, Paul Davis and Roger Pine. All of these have been solid supporters of education. It probably helps that both Barbara and Roger are former members of the Lawrence School Board.

LawrenceVoter:

The City of Lawrence approved a registry to help same-sex partners gain access to health insurance and other benefits offered by private employeers. What is your opinion on such registries?

Scott Morgan:

I support the registry. One of my original concerns with a state-wide smoking ban was that every time we support telling other communities how to do something we add fuel to the idea that they can tell us how to do other things. I don't think it's any secret that there are those at the state level who would like to prohibit us from having a registry. Yet I have explained above why I think a smoking ban should be considered. With regard to the registry itself, I think it is an important step to allow all in Lawrence to enjoy the benefits they deserve.

larryvillerocks:

Should the state help to fund all day kindergarten?

Scott Morgan:

Yes. One of the primary reasons I am running for the State Senate is my passion for education. On my return to the school board, it was clear how many of the very important decisions regarding education are being made in Topeka and I wanted to be part of that discussion. The issue of all day kindergarten is an excellent example. It is clear that there are many benefits to optional all day kindergarten. In Lawrence, we are only able to offer this at a few of our schools. Even this was only accomplished after the school board found ways to use various funding sources to piece it together for those schools with the largest at risk population. The state only pays for a half student for any kindergartner no matter how long they attend each day. There has been talk of moving toward funding all-day kindergarten but so far I haven't seen much more than talk. It's great to be for early childhood education but it is even greater to reflect that support in the financing.

Moderator:

We've tried to get as many questions as possible, but we'll have to take just one more. It's a follow-up to a previous question:

donrichards:

Scott never answered my question, I asked what would he cut? The answer given was not adequate to people not wanting a polital answer, but honesty from a poltician.

Moderator:

Scott's graciously agreed to take a couple more questions. So if you have a good one, get it in.

Scott Morgan:

I don't agree that my answer was not honest or just political. I guess a little of the problem is that when you do these chats, you sit here and type madly and then decide an answer is getting too long while people wait and you go ahead and submit it. My point that I was trying to make is that I have been through a budget process and made cuts (including by the way, signing a letter not renewing my own child's kindergarten teacher who was excellent). I can tell you that education at all levels would be at the top of my list of areas to protect. Given the economic situation and the bleak forecasts for revenue, it is almost important what you will not cut than what you will cut. Education is already a significant slice of the state budget. Saying that I would not support cutting education leaves a lot of items available for reduction if there is insufficient revenue. My presumption is that very few of the existing programs would be easy cuts or they would have been cut a long time ago. There are always more efficient ways of doing some of the same things though.

Moderator:

Can you explain the lease-purchase financing that will be used to fund new athletic fields. Has it been used before? Are there any downsides to this funding mechanism?

Scott Morgan:

I'm not sure I can give you a specific legal description of lease-purchase financing but the basic idea is that state law allows school districts to enter up to 10-year leases to purchase larger equipment. It is very similar to using bonds in terms of where the actual funds come from. Depending on the specific plan we choose, we will go through a bank or through the general market and sell certificates of participation at a market interest rate. If we sold $8 million worth of these certificates, we would use those funds for equipment including artificial turf, lights and bleachers and then pay the amount back in annual payments over 10 years. The annual debt service payment would come out of our annual capital outlay fund (which, just to remind everyone, cannot be used for operations such as classroom teachers). It is a means to finance larger purchases that have a longer lifespan such as fields. And yes, it has been used for this purpose before.

Moderator:

Thanks Scott for taking the time to answer our questions.

Scott Morgan:

Thank you Mr. Moderator. I appreciate the questions and urge everyone to vote on November 4th. For more information check out my website at www.ScottMorganForSenate.com

Moderator:

Just a reminder to our audience, we have an extensive slate of chats over the rest of this month. You can see them all and post questions at LJWorld.com/chats. And also, Scott's opponent, Marci Francisco, will be in to chat with voters on Thursday.

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