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State Sen. Anthony Hensley chats on LJWorld.com

November 2, 2012

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

Moderator:

Good morning. We're chatting with state Sen. Anthony Hensley, who is running to retain his seat as the representative for the state's 19th District. He's running against Republican Casey Moore, who we have invited to chat.

Sen. Hensley is chatting remotely from Topeka.

Thanks for joining us this morning, Senator. Why don't you start by telling us a bit about yourself and why you're running.

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

Good morning, and thank you for allowing me to participate.

As some of you may know, I am a lifelong resident of the 19th Senate District. In fact, my wife Deborah and I still live in my childhood home. Our daughter, Katie, is a 5th grade teacher in Topeka.

When I am not serving in the legislature, I am a public school teacher. I taught at Topeka's Capital City School for more than 30 years, until last year, when I began teaching social students and state government in area high schools.

I am running for re-election because there are a number of critical issues facing our state. The top being lowering property taxes for working Kansas families and seniors living on fixed incomes; restoring cuts to public education; and creating jobs such as would be provided by the 10-year T-Works plan which I voted for. That plan would create an estimated 175,000 jobs in the next decade.

Moderator:

I'll start off with a few questions as we await some more reader questions. Many moderate Republicans were pushed out of their races after the primary. Do you think you'll be able to work with the conservative senators certain to come into office, and, if so, how will you do that?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

Thoughout my service in the legislature, I've been able to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle and from different political perspectives. If re-elected, I will work with any legislator who is willing to work with me to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Moderator:

Both you and your opponent agree that bringing jobs to the area is very important. What kind of jobs do you hope to bring to the area, and how do you plan on keeping young Kansans in the state?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

Although the economy is recovering, thousands of skilled Kansas workers remain unemployed.

That's why we should do more to keep projects here in Kansas. Kansas tax dollars shouldn't be going to hire workers from other states when there are workers right here in Kansas who can perform the job. This past December, I helped introduce a pro-jobs plan that included 14 pro-worker initiatives. One of those was the Hire Kansans First Act, which would require any contractor or subcontractor working on a state contract worth $100,000 or more annually to ensure that at least 70% of those employees working on the contract are Kansans.

And just last week, I helped introduced a new initiative, called the Buy American Act. This act will require that any public building or public work contract made by a state agency must use goods that are manufactured in the U.S. Instead of supporting companies that have moved their operations, investment dollars, and jobs overseas, we should stand behind American-made companies and American-made products.

In addition, we must continue to support the most significant jobs package passed by the legislature in the last decade -- 2009's T-Works program. This program will creat 175,000 jobs in the next ten years.

To keep more young Kansans in the state, I strongly support expanding technical education and fully-funding the tiered formula for technical education as outlined in 2011's SB143. This three-year, $56 million investment would provide the funding necessary to update Kansas tech-ed programs and allow schools to open more classes so students aren't forced onto waiting lists.

Moderator:

You've been in the legislature since 1976. Your opponent says he believes in term limits, and criticized you as a career politician. Do you think your long tenure is a positive thing? Why or why not?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

We have term limits in Kansas already. They're called elections. I'm thankful to the people of the 19th District for re-electing me in the past because I have worked very hard to represent their best interests. If re-elected I will continue to do so.

Moderator:

Many people in this area have asked about arts funding. The newly formed Creative Arts Industries Commission has been criticized for distributing just $30,000 of its $700,000 budget to local arts programs across the state. Do you think the commission is doing enough for local arts programs? If not, how do you think the senate might help the commission to distribute more funding?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

During the 2011 Legislative Session, I was proud to join 23 of my fellow Senators in voting to overturn the Governor's Executive Reorganization Order abolishing the Kansas Arts Commission. Although the Senate was ultimately unable to stop the governor from closing KAC's doors, I will continue to fight for a state budget that supports important arts programs.

The arts not only enrich our lives and culture, they are a powerful economic development tool. Governments, chambers of commerce and convention centers use the arts to recruit businesses and tourists. Many Kansas cities, especially in rural areas, won't have the ability to attract new businesses and visitors if the State of Kansas ceases to support the arts.

At a time when economic growth and job creation are top priorities, it's vital that the state budget reflects the needs of our arts community. Obviously, $30,000 is not enough.

PeterHancock:

The state will need to make decisions in 2013 regarding local implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Would you support expanding Medicaid, as provided under the law? And do you support establishing a state-based insurance exchange where Kansans can shop for subsidized insurance policies?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

One of the biggest challenges facing Kansans is Sam Brownback's controversial plan to privatize the state's Medicaid system by transitioning to a new program called KanCare.

Changing to a privately-operated managed care system that uses for-profit corporations is the largest transaction in state history, and will affect the way 350,000 Kansans receive the health care services they need to live healthy, independent lives.

Most concerning to me is how this change to privatized care will affect thousands of developmentally disabled recipients. Many still fear that the long-term needs of disabled Kansans cannot be appropriately met by a private program, and that the new system won't properly address the nearly 5,000 disabled Kansans still waiting to receive in-home care.

Every year, Medicaid costs continue to grow approximately 7.5 percent. We all agree that something needs to be done. But while we look for ways to contain Medicaid's rising costs, we must not overlook the need for expanded home and community-based services and consumer-directed service options. The needs of disabled Kansans must come first.

I believe that the Kansas Legislature should have slowed down implementation of KanCare for at least one year. And, in March 2012, I joined a majority of the Senate in signing a resolution urging the goernor to make such a delay.

Reassessing our timeline would have given the 2013 legislature an opportunity to more thoroughly study and understand this issue before making such sweeping change. And it would have given local providers the time they need to prepare for the day-to-day requirements of a new system.

In regard to your question about state-based insurance exchanges, I would support the establishment of such an exhange.

fred_mertz:

On the issue of the Hire Kansans First Act, are you suggesting that states engage in protectionism and enact a similar act for their state? Doesn't this have the potential to harm Kansas-based businesses that do work outside the state; IT services, construction and other types that cross state lines?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

The Hire Kansans First Act will require any contractor or subcontractor working on a state contract worth $100,000 or more annually to ensure that at least 70% of those employees working on the contract are Kansas residents (percentages will differ in the Kansas City metro area). Exclusions include lease agreements, lease-purchase agreements, contracts that are solely for the acquisition of goods or commodities and projects that require expertise not readily available in Kansas. The Act also excludes contracts entered into by counties, cities and any other local unit of government.

Additionally, any company seeking benefits under any of the following tax incentive programs also must employ at least a 70% Kansas workforce: Promoting Employment Across Kansas Act (PEAK), the High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP), the Business and Jobs Development Tax Credit, and the Sales Tax and Revenue Bond Program (STAR Bonds).

PeterHancock:

The state is now moving away from No Child Left Behind, thanks to a federal waiver. With that, the State Department of Education is thinking about moving away from Quality Performance Accreditation, the system that Kansas has used for 20 years to assess whether schools are meeting state expectations. Do you support doing away with QPA at this time and moving to another system of accrediting schools, one that's aligned to the new waiver?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

It seems to me that the QPA process has worked reasonably well. I would need to know more about why the KSDE wants to move away from this process before forming an opinion.

Moderator:

In your travels around Douglas County this campaign season, what are voters' biggest concerns? How would you address them if you're re-elected?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

The top concerns I've heard from residents of Douglas County are regarding public education and a previous proposal to close the Lawrence SRS office.

Kansas schools have endured seven rounds of devastating cuts in just three years. As a result, base state aid per pupil is now $530 below 2009 levels while school district general fund budgets are nearlly 9% below 2009.

Unfortunately, Sam Brownback's tax plan will prevent the legislature from restoring these school funding cuts, forcing us to cut even more, and forcing local districts to lay off teachers, increase fees and increase class sizes to make ends meet. And because local units of govenments and schools rely on the same tax base, Sam Brownback's plan will dramatically increase local property taxes.

Instead of giving a tax cut to the wealthy and to corporations, we should work to fully fund our schools, keeping class sizes down and ensuring top quality teachers are in our classrooms. To begin restoring cuts to schools, I introduced a bill this past session that would have adequately and fairly funded all schools without overhauling the current formula. Senate Bill 350 would have begun restoring these cuts immediately by properly funding the current formula while protecting essential weightings for at-risk students.

In just three years, my plan would have restored funding by $267 per student while at the same time holding the line on local proeprty tax increases. And by restoring cuts incrementally, school boards would have been given the certainty they need to plan for the most urgent needs facing their local schools.

Although this plan failed to receive approval this year, I will continue to pursue this solution. I believe it's our best option to adequately fund the state's current formula without throwing away years of progress.

Regarding the local Lawrence SRS office: In July 2011, the Brownback administration announced that it would permanently close the Lawrence SRS office, putting the jobs of dozens of workers and services for thousands of people in jeopardy. Thankfully that did not happen.

If there is any further consideration given to this issue, I will strongly oppose closure.

agardner:

What if any changes in the state's income tax structure do you think the Legislature should consider next year?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

During the 2012 legislative session, Democrats in the House and Senate offered a number of proposals to cut Kansas property taxes. Those efforts were mostly ignored by Governor Brownback and his supporters in the House and Senate.

The Governor rejected our proposals and instead pushed through the most reckless, fiscally irresponsible tax cut our state has ever seen so he could give large tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations. The Governor’s plan will leave our state $2.5 billion in the hole and lead to higher property taxes statewide.

I will be be interested to learn how Governor Brownback plans to address this $2.5 billion self-imposed budget crisis.

As far as the legislature's role, we need to create an income tax structure that is fair to all while also providing for meaningful property tax relief. We don't have an income tax problem in Kansas. We have a property tax problem.

Moderator:

That's all the time we have today. Sen. Hensley, are there any parting thoughts you'd like to share with our readers before you sign off?

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

Again, I want to thank the people of the 19th District for allowing me to serve them in the Kansas Senate. I ask for your support on November 6th, but regardless of how you vote, I strongly encourage you to vote.

Moderator:

Thank you for your time today, Senator. And readers, thank you for your questions. We have one final chat scheduled. State Board of Education candidate (and incumbent) Carolyn Campbell will chat with us at 2 p.m. today. You can submit your questions here: http://www2.ljworld.com/chats/2012/nov/02/carolyn-campbell/

Comments

1 year, 10 months ago

Disappointed Hensley avoided answering my question.

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wastewatcher 1 year, 10 months ago

ULTRA LIBERAL HENSLEY will never give you a straight answer unless it calls for more taxes and more spending, and then he is all for it. IT IS TIME FOR HIM TO GO AND TEACH FULL TIME.

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