State Sen. Marci Francisco chats on


Hello. Welcome to our chat with Sen. Marci Francisco, who is seeking re-election in Kansas Senate District 2. I'm your moderator, Journal-World reporter Chad Lawhorn. Sen. Francisco will be taking questions from our online audience for about the next hour. We still are accepting questions, so send them in. Sen. Francisco's opponent, Ron Ellis, has been invited to chat on the LJWorld site. When we get a date set for that, we'll let you know.

So let's get started. Sen. Francisco, welcome.

Sen. Marci Francisco:

Good morning. I appreciate the Lawrence Journal-World providing me this opportunity to be online to chat...


Governor Brownback's tax plan threatens to cut funding for schools and social programs. USD 497 is currently working on a bond issue for their April election. If re-elected, what would you do to push the Legislature to continue to fund schools and relieve the burden that has been put on local school districts and taxpayers?

Sen. Marci Francisco:

I have been a strong proponent of state funding for public schools in the legislature. I believe that we need to increase the state base aid per pupil to restore the cuts that have been made in the last four years, and hope to have the chance to again serve as a member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee that works on the budget bill. Many legislators are concerned about the schools in their communities; I believe that if we can make some adjustments to the recent tax changes we will be able to allocate adequate resources to our schools. I have mentioned one specific change - limit the exemption for income tax on a business's non-wage income to $100,000.


Folks, get your questions in. In the meantime, here's a question from your moderator. One issue you and your opponent have disagreed on is the process used to select state judges. Please tell us your stance on that issue.

Sen. Marci Francisco:

I opposed the legislation that would have allowed a Kansas governor to pick appointees to the Kansas Court of Appeals subject to Senate confirmation because I support the current system, established in 1977, in which the governor picks from three candidates selected by a judicial nominating commission. That commission is currently comprised of four non-attorneys appointed by the governor, four attorneys elected by attorneys, one from each of the state's four congressional districts, and a chair elected by a statewide vote of attorneys. I believe that this system ensures that the appointments to our courts are based on merit and qualifications, maintains the separation of powers, and reduces the influence of political considerations. I would also oppose a constitutional amendment to change the system for selection of judges for the Kansas Supreme Court.


Arts funding! We need it! How will you bring awareness to this vital element of culture?

Sen. Marci Francisco:

I have been a proponent of state funding for the arts and art education; it is important in making our communities attractive for residents and development and arts are major contributors to our state economy. I did support the allocation of $700,000 in the current budget for funds for the Creative Arts Industries Commission. At the September meeting of the Joint Arts and Culture committee, we learned that the Commission was planning to submit an application for matching funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. We need to be concerned that we are a third of the way through the year without an understanding of the direction and plans for the commission; I urged the director of the commission to share the plans for development and the budget with the legislature.


Again, send us in those questions. Here's another from your moderator. In July, the state's sales tax rate is scheduled to drop from 6.3 percent to 5.7 percent. Recently, Gov. Brownback has indicated he may be willing to allow the sales tax to stay at its current 6.3 percent rate to help the budget. Would you support allowing the sales tax to remain at its current rate?

Sen. Marci Francisco:

I do not support allowing the sales tax to remain at the current 6.3 rate, and voted for an amendment to the tax legislation to support making the reduction as scheduled.

I would like to see a balance between income, property, and sales taxes, and am concerned that both sales and property taxes are currently at too high a percentage. The tax bill that was passed (I voted NO) also eliminates the Food Sales Tax Rebate so there would be no offset for the sales tax on food that is paid by low-income households. Property taxes collected in Kansas have doubled since 1997, and the state has suspended making annual payments towards the reduction of city and county income taxes.

My support for the temporary increase in sales tax was accompanied by an corresponding increase in the Food Sales Tax Rebate and a commitment to see that it was temporary.


Hi Senator,

I've heard about the group Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, which has garnered ample media coverage in the state. My question is, do you anticipate a further coalition between moderate Republicans and Democrats in future legislative sessions?

Thank you,

Trent Boultinghouse

Sen. Marci Francisco:

I do think that there will be continuing issues in the legislature where moderate Republicans and Democrats work together, just as there will be issues where Democrats and conservatives work together and others for which all the Republicans may work together. Other coalitions will be based around support for vocational training and higher education, and for rural issues. Coalitions and compromises are an important part of getting legislation passed or blocked. During the last two years, more conservative legislators in the House made some proposals that were blocked or modified by the moderate Republicans and the Democrats in the Senate. This coming year will bring new alliances.


We're about to wrap up. Last call for questions from the online audience. In the meantime, one last one from your moderator. What policies or legislation can the state adopt to help spur job growth in Kansas?

Sen. Marci Francisco:

We want to find ways to continually be building our Kansas economy, and I believe we need to do that by strengthening the foundations - education, transportation, health, and our natural resources. Investments in education are important to promote innovations and an educated workforce. Investments in education are also creating jobs in the state. We need a robust transportation system that includes good highways, and also support for public transit and trains. A healthy population can contribute to a healthy economy. We are also dependent upon healthy soils, clean air, and an adequate supply of water to continue growth. We want to avoid eliminating state employment that is contributing to production.


Well, that does it for this chat. Thank you, Sen. Francisco. And thank you, online readers for submitting questions.

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