Sandy Praeger, Republican candidate in the 44th Kansas House District, is banking that voters recognize that her experience as Lawrence mayor and city commissioner will be an asset in state government.
"It's great training for moving into the Legislature," she said. "The kind of issues are very similar. I have dealt with roads and highways and a myriad of city budgets."
Praeger served on the city commission from 1985 to 1989 and was mayor in 1986-87. She points out that in three of her four years on the commission, the city mill levy went down, and that the city mill levy went up only 1.3 mills during the four years she served.
One reason local taxes remained low is that the city's tax base expanded, Praeger said.
"And that's the best way to solve problems on the state level," she said. "Economic expansion comes by providing a climate that attracts business from out of the state."
But Praeger, 46, acknowledged that the state faces tough economic times and that revenue must increase. She said this is especially true when looking at funding problems in the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.
"A LOT OF costs are passed on by the federal government; mandates with no federal money," she said. "And in some cases, there are matching funds but the state has to come up with the state's share.
"These programs are important and I'm not sure we can afford to cut them," Praeger added.
Concerning a possible shortfall of up to $200 million to maintain state programs next fiscal year, Praeger said all state taxing sources "should be on the table.
"We need to really evaluate and find out if we have the proper mix of taxes," she said. "And I don't think we do. I think we rely too heavily on property taxes."
Praeger said she supports a proposal by Gov. Mike Hayden to increase the state sales tax by 1 percent and use that money to reduce local property taxes.
"But obviously, when you reduce one tax you have to make it up with another," she said, adding that the Legislature should study every taxing source to find the fairest solution to the potential state shortfall, including income taxes, sales taxes and excise taxes.
PRAEGER, VICE president for community affairs at Douglas County Bank, said some of the furor over increased property taxes brought about by the classification amendment and reappraisal has settled. And she said she thinks the 1990 Legislature was smart not to overreact.
But she said some adjustments in classification rates must be made so unfair property tax burdens are lifted. For example, she said unfair burdens were placed on some small businesses and fraternal organizations.
"And some vacant lots were taxed at commercial rates," she said.
Praeger suggests that the assessment rate on business machinery be increased, but she balks at restoring property taxes on business inventories.
Praeger is a strong supporter of the Margin of Excellence, which is geared toward increasing salaries of teachers in regents institutions.
"But after the Margin, we need to start talking about next year," she said. "And the Margin, that's just average, parity. I'm not sure that's good enough."
PRAEGER SAID the Margin should be funded out of the state's general fund, not by using cigarette and alcohol taxes as proposed by Gov. Mike Hayden.
"We don't know how much money a cigarette tax is going to generate," she said.
On abortion, Praeger said she is a pro-choice candidate. The only restriction she would support is a law against abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy, she said.