Barbara Ballard, Democratic candidate for the Kansas House in the 44th District, said she hears disillusionment and concern among voters as she goes door to door campaigning in the district.
"It's a difficult time for Kansans," she said. "Because of reappraisal and classification, because of oil, because of agriculture.''
Ballard, 45, associate dean of student life and director of the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center at Kansas University, has been on the Lawrence school board for five years. She is making her first run for state office.
Acknowledging that the state's financial problems are the major concern facing the 1991 Legislature, Ballard says her experience with school issues will be a major asset as a legislator.
She said this is especially true because the Legislature will try to rewrite the formula for distributing state aid to 304 Kansas school districts.
BALLARD said the solution to increased property taxes that many homeowners and small businesses experienced after reappraisal lies with the school aid formula. And she said the way to help Lawrence residents with property taxes is to increase state aid to public education.
"There is no way to reduce property taxes unless the state assumes a larger burden of financing public schools," she said. "And I think coming up with a better way to distribute public funds could be possible.''
But Ballard acknowledged that reaching agreement in the Legislature on a distribution formula will be difficult.
"Everybody will be in there protecting their own turf, and money will be limited," she said. "I certainly would be fighting for Lawrence."
Asked about the possibility of a $200 million shortfall in state revenue facing the state next year, Ballard conceded that taxes may have to go up.
"Maybe we will have to increase taxes," she said. "That's not something that's popular to say, but it's honest and it's realistic. We may have to look at sales taxes and income taxes."
BALLARD pointed out that the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services has had a two-year freeze on hiring, and caseloads have increased rapidly. Some of the funding shortfall has to do with the growing number of people living in poverty, she said.
SRS programs, she said, "were created because there was a need for them. It doesn't hurt to look at trying to save money. But at the same time, we need to look at services we have to deliver."
Concerning increased property taxes, Ballard said correcting errors made in the reappraisal process will help. But unlike a number of legislators, Ballard said she doesn't favor returning business inventories to tax rolls.
Ballard said funding the third year of the Margin of Excellence for Board of Regent's institutions is vital and would be a priority for her.
"The Margin is like the minimum we can do," she said.
Ballard said a proposal by Gov. Mike Hayden to increase taxes on cigarettes and liquor to fund the Margin is one solution. But she said this may not be enough and legislators may have to look at other taxes.
BALLARD does not hesitate to state her position on abortion, another issue the 1991 Legislature is likely to face. She said she believes in a woman's freedom to choose whether to have an abortion and this freedom shouldn't be restricted by laws.
"We also know that when (abortion) wasn't legal, it didn't stop women from being able to find a way and it certainly was not safe," she said.