Three Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidates exchanged opinions on toxic waste, property tax relief, and qualified university admissions during a debate Saturday night at Kansas Univeristy.
Former Gov. John Carlin, State Treasurer Joan Finney, and the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. took part in the debate, which was sponsored by the Kansas Young Democrats. About 80 people attened the debate.
The debate opened on a question of how to deal with the problem of toxic waste in Kansas.
"All of us concerned with the environment would like to have tougher standards, and with the (federal) clean air bill, we should be able to move effectively," Carlin said.
"The standards may be tough, but they are not being enforced adequately," Finney responded. "I would pressure the feds to take their responsibility seriously," she said.
"THIS QUESTION and issue brings out what is wrong with our government," said Phelps, who is a minister at a Topeka Baptist church. "The only way to stop this problem is to get a governor in there who will use that office as a bully pulpit."
The debate, in which each candidate had a few minutes to answer questions and respond other candidates' answers, lasted about an hour.
"In regard to toxic waste, we have to identify the problem first and then take responsible action. But we must invest in this issue," Carlin said.
On property tax reappraisal, Finney said some relief was needed, but that large companies and people with large incomes should not get a tax break. An increased sales tax, she said, should not be used to supplement income lost from property tax cuts.
"People are interested in fairness," Finney said. "After the Legislature adjourns this year, I have a definite plan, which I will address."
Phelps said he favored complete abolishment of property taxes in Kansas.
"IT'S COMPLICATED . . . you can't make it fair, and any tax system that isn't fair should be abolished," he said.
Phelps proposed a cut in the state's "bureaucratic waste," by not hiring state workers who retire or are fired in future years.
"It wouldn't be vicious approach, and it would be a way for us to cut the bloat out of this hog in state government," he said.
Carlin responded by saying many social service programs are already overburdened and would suffer if staff were cut or lost.
"I'm for cutting some of the waste . . . but we also have to act responsibly," he said.
On stricter university admission requirements for Kansas high school students, Carlin said, "We ought to debate a qualified admissions program."
"WHAT WE HAVE is too much remedial education. We must look at changing the system . . . but we must do so in a way so that it doesn't restrict (access)," Carlin said.
"I do not support a qualified admissions program," Finney said. "All Kansas taxpayers support our schools and I think it's a matter of fairness that everyone should have a chance."
Finney added that she would improve education funding overall because it would lower future crime, welfare and remedial costs.
"We cannot continue to place dollars in a reactionary system. Let's put the dollars in a preventive system," she said.
Phelps said the education system in Kansas is "a fat cow, and a sacred cow," protected by special interests. He said state secondary and higher education systems already have too much funding.
"We have professors that teach one class a semester and are getting paid 40, 50, $60,000 a year," he said. "When one retires, we shouldn't replace him because he wasn't doing anything anyway."