With a little more than three weeks until the Nov. 5 election, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius and Republican Tim Shallenburger continue to stick tightly to a gubernatorial campaign script that essentially says education is good and taxes are bad.
In forums and television ads, the two major political party candidates have provided few specifics on how they would deal with what is forecast to be a record revenue gap in the state budget.
And last week, Shallenburger unleashed the first television ad attacking Sebelius over votes she made as a legislator that he said showed she was soft on crime. Sebelius responded that the votes were taken out of context and represented the kind of negative campaigning that Kansans are tired of.
In an attempt to provide voters with more information on where the candidates stand on numerous important issues, the Journal-World submitted 27 questions to each of the candidates' campaigns.
There was no rhyme or reason to the number of questions submitted, nor their order, and we have not edited the candidates' answers.
A recent study showed that expanding U.S. Highway 50 to four lanes could bring as much as $5.4 billion in new business to the eight counties stretching from Reno to Hamilton. Do you think Highway 50 should be expanded? If so, what would you do as governor to make it happen?
Sebelius: While the current Comprehensive Transportation Plan includes Highway 50 for many expansion and enhancements, there are no plans to expand it to four lanes from Reno to Hamilton. I have seen the Docking Institute study and believe that we must consider any infrastructure enhancements that will help the state with economic development.
Shallenburger: There is a definite need for a four-lane highway that serves Western Kansas. The economic impact the highway would have on the communities it would serve would be limitless. Future projects, such as the Regents center I am proposing for southwest Kansas would benefit from Highway 50 being four lanes. The project should be seriously considered for future highway projects.
Corrections officials report Kansas prisons are approaching capacity. What is your solution to that immediate problem? Should the state build more prisons? If so, where would the money come from to build more prisons?
Sebelius: The Sentencing Commission is currently looking at what possibilities are available. Projections show Kansas will run out of bed space by 2005. Current bed space in Kansas prisons can cover the next three years, but we must make a decision on this during the next legislative session and I will examine carefully the recommendations by the secretary of corrections, the Sentencing Commission and others.
Shallenburger: It should be a priority of ours to assure we have enough bed space for prisoners. We cannot get soft on crime by reducing sentences for economic reasons. Instead, we should identify inefficiencies and wasteful spending in government. The wasteful spending that we rid in government will assist in assuring that we have enough prison space in Kansas.
The Kansas Sentencing Commission will recommend to the 2003 Legislature that sentencing guidelines be modified so nonviolent drug offenders will be more likely to receive treatment instead of prison time. Do you support the commission's stand?
Sebelius: This proposal needs to be examined as part of a comprehensive plan for public safety in Kansas.
Shallenburger: The first thing we should always keep in mind is to protect our streets. In this case, we need to protect our youth from the temptations of drug use. While treatment has its merits, we should be very careful when replacing prison time with treatment programs.
Irrigators with water rights in Sebelius Reservoir have offered to sell those water rights to the state. Former Gov. Mike Hayden called this voluntary, compensated relinquishment a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Do you believe the state should purchase those water rights? Why?
Sebelius: I believe a similar buy-back has been considered in the Cedar Bluffs area and we should review that situation as an example. From what I have heard from former Governor Hayden and others in the area, this presents a unique opportunity for the state. A buyback for the Sebelius Reservoir might restore that body of water and create potential economic benefits to the local and state economy.
Shallenburger: We should be open to the idea. Water is our most valuable resource, thus we should identify ways to assure its availability.
Self-employed Kansans, those working for companies that don't provide health insurance, and even those who work for companies that offer health insurance, continue to struggle with the costs of health insurance. As governor, what would you or could you do to alleviate the problem?
Sebelius: We must work with the Legislature to increase the Small Business Tax Credit to help employers provide health insurance for their employees. Working to lower the uninsured rates in Kansas will dramatically help to improve our overall state health. I also fully support the Business Health Partnership that provides a health insurance purchase pool for small businesses. While this has been around for the last two years, it has yet to become operational. As governor, I will fight to ensure that the Business Health Partnership is fully operational.
Affordable health insurance was the primary reason to deny the takeover of Kansas Blue Cross by Anthem of Indiana. I will continue as governor to work with federal and state efforts to maximize and stabilize private health insurance.
Shallenburger: We need to work with the next insurance commissioner in creating more competition in the state. Over the last few years, too many insurance providers have left the state due to our regulatory environment. This lack of competition has led to less affordable health care, including skyrocketing prescription drug costs. Without question, this should be a top priority of government.
Bob Hooper, a water conservation activist and past chairman of the Solomon River Basin Advisory Committee, has called for a zero-depletion policy but has been rebuffed at the Kansas Water Office. What are your views on zero-depletion policy, and, barring some policy such as that, what would be your stance as governor with regard to groundwater conservation in western Kansas?
Sebelius: The debate over depletion of Kansas groundwater has too often become bitter. I don't believe those who advocate zero water depletion want farmers who depend on the water to commit economic suicide anymore than the farmers who use the water want to see a vital resource and environmental necessity for Kansas destroyed.
I do not support a specific deadline if it is not one in large part accepted by the people whose livelihoods depend on the use of the water. The best water management systems depend on the cooperation of the water users and the governmental entities charged with water administration. A vigorous dialogue has already begun to bring all parties closer together, and as governor, I will work to facilitate a solution that is satisfactory to all sides.
Shallenburger: We need to think outside the box concerning water issues. Ideas such as underground drip irrigation are proven methods of conserving water for agricultural use. As a state, we should provide tax incentives to those farmers who would be willing to implement systems like the drip irrigation system.
Rick Spano, an associate dean of social welfare at the Kansas University School of Social Welfare, calls the state's 1997 privatization of child welfare a "failure." What is your view on the subject? What would you do to improve the situation?
Sebelius: All programs involving child welfare, juvenile justice and child development will be reviewed as a part of the Performance Audit.
Shallenburger: Privatization efforts have had difficulties. However, it is clear to me that the system has improved since its inception in 1997. The new administration should work toward improving the communication level between SRS and the contract providers. In addition, we should review the regulations in place and determine their appropriateness.
As a percentage of the total cost of funding higher education, the state's share has been in decline the past several years. Universities are calling for dramatically increased tuition to help make up the difference. As governor, what would you do to ensure that Kansas families are not priced out of being able to pay for a college education for their children?
Sebelius: Kansas has always been a state where students from any family can afford a college education with financial aid and work study programs. I will work with the Legislature and the institutes of higher learning in Kansas to make sure that quality higher education is still affordable for all Kansans.
Shallenburger: This is another example of setting priorities. We should aim to have the best higher education system in the country. Instead of focusing on the percentage of the budget that goes toward higher education, we should focus on whether the amount is suitable for our goal as a state. Once we determine our goals in higher education, we should adequately fund it.
This year, lawmakers put $666,000 in the budget to hire and train 11 workers one in each of the state's area agencies on aging to help senior citizens find free or reduced-price prescription drugs. Gov. Graves vetoed the expenditure. Is that something you would restore?
Sebelius: Currently, drug companies spend 30 percent of revenue on advertising, placing profits ahead of consumers. As governor, I will fight against drug companies' misguided priorities, putting the people of Kansas first. As insurance commissioner, I spearheaded the implementation of the SHICK program (Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansans) helping seniors save money on prescription drugs. Since my office initiated SHICK in 1996, the program has provided seniors with over $7 million in savings. Seniors need additional assistance and the state must work to secure and enhance the prescription trust fund, leverage discounts from drug companies through multi-state purchasing power, and require drug companies to disclose amounts of the gifts and cash payments made to doctors.
Shallenburger: The area associations on aging are operating with limited resources. Many of the services they provide are volunteer driven. We cannot afford to take more funds from their budget, when they are already strapped to begin with.
Last year, SRS cut by 30 percent (about $5 million) its spending on services designed to keep troubled families together and children out of foster care. Part of the cut was restored this year, but funding is still $3.25 million less than last year. Is this something you would restore?
Sebelius: Your questions regarding the operations of state agencies will be addressed by a performance audit of all state agencies and departments. I will institute such a performance audit with a short-term list of priorities and goals, and a longer term set of priorities and goals. Every operation should be examined. Similar performance audits helped streamline government operations and increase effectiveness in many other states.
Shallenburger: We should always promote the preservation of families, but not at the expense of a child's safety. This program can do just that and should be appropriated an amount necessary to succeed.
Medicaid rates paid to Kansas nursing homes and doctors caring for the poor are among the lowest in the nation. What would you do to increase rates? Or are doctors and nursing homes paid enough?
Sebelius: The fact that Kansas has one of the lowest Medicaid rates must be addressed. I have met with many professionals in the medical community and believe we must do more to provide quality care for all Kansans.
Shallenburger: Rates should be reviewed. In addition, we need to reduce the amount of Medicaid fraud that exists in the system today. Well over $100 million worth of fraud occurred last year. This plays a large part in the state's ability to provide a suitable reimbursement rate. First eliminate the fraud then re-evaluate the reimbursement rates.
Are assisted living facilities in Kansas adequately regulated?
Sebelius: It is a very difficult decision for families to place a loved one in an assisted living facility. The least the state can do is help to provide balanced protections for one of our most vulnerable populations. I have concerns about some assisted living facilities and understand that one of the greatest challenges they have is in finding quality staff.
Shallenburger: We need to evaluate whether they are or not. We should always ask whether a regulation serves a compelling public interest. If it does, then the regulation should be in place.
Have KTEC and Kansas Inc. earned their keep? Should the state get back into the venture capital business to help startup businesses get off the ground? What would you do to foster and improve the level of economic development statewide?
Sebelius: Choosing John Moore as my lieutenant governor brings a great deal of economic development expertise to state government. John is the former president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has served on both the KTEC and Kansas Inc. Boards. I believe that government does not create jobs, rather private businesses and entrepreneurs do. Through KTEC and Kansas Inc. we can continue to help to stimulate the economy and assist Kansas companies to thrive and prosper.
Shallenburger: Simply put, the state should always look to stimulate economic development. As governor, I will personally get involved in retaining and attracting businesses. Part of my week will be dedicated to personally calling businesses and selling them on the benefits of operating in Kansas.
Should a portion of the state's lottery revenues be spent on public schools, K-12? If yes, how much?
Sebelius: Education is the single most important economic engine in Kansas. Lottery money is primarily utilized for economic development programs, but could be utilized in a small way to assist in funding K-12 education.
Shallenburger: I believe we can provide for an excellent education system within existing means. If lottery revenues were to be reallocated, then education should receive funds before anything else.
In August, Johnson County voters passed a quarter-cent sales tax to help fund their schools. Would you encourage other communities to do the same, or do you see the tax widening the gap between the state's rich and poor districts? Also, what is your opinion of private fund-raising efforts to help support public education?
Sebelius: Funding quality public education is the top priority for tax dollars, the most important investment for the future and the key economic engine for Kansas. Education has and always will be my number one priority. As governor, I am committed to increasing funding and achieving the funding levels set forth in the suitability study released in May. In addition, we must find a constitutional way for local districts to enhance their school funding beyond what the state provides. Districts need to be accountable for the tax dollars they are receiving, but should have as much local control and flexibility as possible to meet the needs of the students in a particular area.
Shallenburger: I can understand the reasoning behind the Johnson County sales tax initiative. All Kansans want to have the best schools in the country. What we need to do however is rewrite the school finance formula. The current formula, which I did not support, hampers local school districts from enhancing their schools. Under the current formula, measures like the sales tax initiative are in danger of being unconstitutional. We should have a formula that allows local districts to raise revenues through whatever means necessary without the danger of it being constitutional.
Compared with other states, Kansas has a large number of school districts. To increase efficiency, do you favor consolidating some of the state's 303 districts?
Sebelius: There are many school districts that have already worked to find ways to consolidate administrations and save money. However, the current school finance formula actually rewards school districts to not consolidate. We must encourage and reward school districts that voluntarily consolidate. In many areas of Western Kansas, consolidation is not an option due to the large distances between schools. We must continue to guarantee that quality Kansas schools are available to all children.
Shallenburger: Consolidation should be done on a voluntary basis. It should not be forced upon school districts. Having said that, I believe there are ways to consolidate administrative costs from district to district. As governor, I would encourage school districts to identify areas where efficiencies can be identified.
Since Gov. Bill Graves privatized much of the state's child welfare system in 1996-1997, spending on foster care and adoption services has increased from $70 million to $160 million. Is this increase justified?
Sebelius: We must do everything possible to help keep Kansas children with their families, or to place them in a safe foster-family or adoption setting. The increase in funding for foster care has spurred many audits and hearings in Topeka, although there has been relatively little change as a result of these audits or hearings.
Shallenburger: We need to make sure that the $160 million is being spent wisely. If the funds are directly benefiting our youth, then the amount would be justified.
Low-income families participating in HealthWave, the state's health insurance program for children, are asked to pay $10-a-month premiums. Should they be asked to pay more?
Sebelius: Many of the Kansas children participating in HealthWave come from families that are experiencing financial difficulties. I support HealthWave completely and believe that the state needs to assist in every way possible to guarantee these children receive quality health care.
Shallenburger: We should attempt to hold the line on the monthly premium. Low-income families cannot afford increased premiums, especially after the state just raised taxes on them.
Wichita mayor Bob Knight and others have said Westar Energy executive David Wittig ought to go. Do you agree?
Sebelius: I have no information about Westar's management beyond what I read in the newspapers. I am confident the Kansas Corporation Commission will do its job, and I endorse the audit of Westar's management being undertaken by the KCC.
Shallenburger: I don't believe that as governor I should publicly state whether someone should or should not be an executive at Westar Energy. That matter is between Mr. Wittig and his shareholders.
Would you retain former Gov. Mike Hayden as secretary at Department of Wildlife and Parks?
Sebelius: Other than naming John Moore, my running mate and former president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as my choice for secretary of commerce, I have not made any decisions on what qualified people should be considered for Cabinet level positions. I respect Governor Hayden and the work he has done for the state of Kansas.
Shallenburger: I have said since the outset of my campaign that I would not announce any of my Cabinet members until after the election. I will say that the Cabinet secretaries I appoint will be advocates for the people, not for their own agencies.
List three specific areas in the state budget you think should be privatized.
Sebelius: I am not fully convinced the full privatization is the answer to better government operations. The most successful models seem to be a public-private partnership. However, once a top-to-bottom performance audit has been conducted, we will have a much better idea of operations that need to be considered for privatization or a public-private partnership.
Shallenburger: I am not comfortable in identifying future privatization efforts until a thorough review of government is done after I take office. It is only then when I could make a fair evaluation of whether anymore services should be privatized.
List three specific areas in the state budget where more needs to be spent and three where less can be spent.
2. Helping Kansas find affordable health insurance
3. Economic development including work force training to create jobs and stimulate the Kansas economy
1. Government bureaucracy: Through a Performance Audit, we need to look at areas like the Department of Administration where the state can eliminate some bureaucracy.
2. Government waste: I have a proven track record of reviewing programs and eliminating government waste. One of my first moves as insurance commissioner was to push legislation through getting rid of the Kansas Insurance Department's securities vault. The vault used to hold billions in securities, and other assets of insurance companies costing Kansans $162,531 per year. This savings has resulted in a cumulative savings over $975,186 (from 1996 to 2002) [Topeka Capital Journal, 1/31/96; Division of Budget Fiscal Note on 1996 SB 450]
3. Duplication of Services: There are many areas of state government where we may be duplicating services. Services for children are split between five different agencies. Services for agriculture are in three different agencies. I truly believe that there are many areas where services are duplicated, and as governor I will work to streamline these services.
I think every part of government can find more efficient ways of spending money. When I became state treasurer, I pledged to cut inefficiencies and waste. After nearly four years in office, I've reduced the taxpayer-funded portion of my budget by over 30 percent, while returning record-breaking amounts of unclaimed property, implementing a college savings plan and administering an agricultural production loan program that provides low-interest loans to farmers.
Will you support, sign into law or allow to become law any bill to further restrict abortions, including legislation aimed at making it more difficult for abortion doctors to conduct business? Will you support, sign into law or allow to become law any bill to make it easier to get an abortion?
Sebelius: As governor, I will propose no changes to the current restrictions on abortion in Kansas. I will uphold the law.
Shallenburger: I am the pro-life candidate in this race. As governor, I would work with individuals from both sides of this issue to pass a parental consent law.
When you become governor, what would your top two goals be? Please provide specifics on how you would accomplish those goals.
Sebelius: First would be to conduct a comprehensive top-to-bottom performance audit of state government operations. There would, of necessity, be a short-term emergency component and a longer-term plan. From those, a comprehensive plan for state government would be defined. My top priority will be education, affordable health care and economic development to create jobs and stimulate the Kansas economy.
Shallenburger: We need to eliminate wasteful spending in Topeka. There is enough waste in government to pay for the budget shortfall we find ourselves in. We can provide for an excellent education and provide other essential services to Kansans without raising taxes. It just takes a commitment to find a better way.
Our school finance formula needs to be rewritten. The current formula limits local school districts from enhancing their schools. The state should pay for a suitable education and allow school districts to raise revenue through local means. We need to find ways to transfer some administrative costs to the classroom and provide more competitive teachers' salaries.
Name two issues that you and your opponent disagree on, and why a voter should support you over your opponent?
Education: I believe Kansas must fund a quality education for all of its students from border to border. My opponent has said that we can cut education funding by 3 percent or $69 million.
Fighting for quality affordable health care for all Kansans: Affordable health insurance was the primary reason to deny the takeover of Kansas Blue Cross by Anthem of Indiana. I will continue as governor to work with federal and state efforts to maximize and stabilize private health insurance.
Shallenburger: My opponent and I have a fundamental difference of opinion in the way we should fund our schools. I believe that the state should provide for a suitable education and allow local school districts to enhance their districts through local means. The key is, that on the state level we live up to the commitment of fully funding a suitable education. That's a commitment that I will make as governor. My opponent believes that the state should determine what is best for local school districts.
We also have a difference of opinion concerning crime. My opponent has a voting record from the Legislature that demonstrated a soft on crime approach. She voted against confining violent sexual predators and making public the list of sexual predators. I have a tough-on-crime stance that is proven from my days in the Legislature. We should not allow criminals to roam our streets when they've already betrayed the public's trust.
Do you support expansion of gambling in Kansas? Why or why not?
Sebelius: I am on record in support of legislation that would allow gaming if the voters in the county voted to allow it.
Shallenburger: I do not support the expansion of gambling in Kansas. I don't believe that it makes economic sense. The amount of dollars that Kansans have to gamble in order for the state to receive revenue is enormous. The money that is spent gambling is then taken away from the mom and pop stores that received it previous to legalized gambling. To me, that's not economic development.
Will you propose or support tougher clean-water standards or are Kansas rivers and streams clean enough?
Sebelius: Every person in this state wants clean and safe water. I will work with all parties to make sure that our regulations are balanced to that end.
Shallenburger: I believe that the standards we have in place are appropriate. However, we must assure that the standards we have in place are enforced.