Schools and how the state funds them are the key issue in the race for the 47th House District, which includes all of Jefferson County and two townships in south central Atchison County.
Bruce Hanson, a Democrat, is running against one-term incumbent Lee Tafanelli, a Republican.
Hanson, 56, says Tafanelli, a Republican, hasn't done enough to patch the holes in the state's education budget.
"His votes on education have been awful," Hanson said.
Tafanelli, 41, says that's not true, pointing out that last year he voted for the $50-per-pupil increase in state aid to schools, and this year he supported the $20-per-pupil increase.
Gov. Bill Graves later rescinded the $20-per-pupil increase, citing a shortfall in projected revenues.
"In Kansas, 52 cents out of every tax dollar is spent on K-through-12 the number jumps to 68 cents when you add in higher education," Tafanelli said. "I don't see how we can be spending this much money and then have somebody say we're not doing enough."
Tafanelli said he's in no hurry to raise taxes to shore up school budgets.
"That's not because I'm not for schools; it's because the money isn't there," he said.
State officials are predicting a $100 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2003, and a $700 million-to-$800 million deficit in 2004.
Instead of raising taxes, Tafanelli said he'd rather give schools "greater flexibility" in solving their financial problems.
"I think we ought to look at what requirements are out there that can be relaxed until we get through this crisis," he said.
Hanson is ready to raise taxes. For starters, he'd add a couple brackets to the upper end of the state's income tax code.
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"I see nothing wrong with asking these people to stick a bigger paddle in the water to help us get around these rocks," Hanson said.
He'd also launch a major search for waste and inefficiency.
"A lot of state employees live here in Jefferson County," Hanson said. "Everywhere I go I hear their frustration they're told there's not enough money for raises this year, and yet, at the same time, they see all kinds of mismanagement and waste going on around them. If they'll share that with a guy who knocks on their door, then you know it's there."
Hanson said he's not for letting school districts raise their local option budgets more than the 25 percent allowed in the current formula.
"That would raise local property tax," he said. "And for the older people I talk to who are on fixed incomes, property tax is the one they worry about the most."
Tafanelli said he, too, is no fan of raising property taxes. But he's uncomfortable with the state blocking communities from spending more on their schools.
"They should have the right to do that," he said.
A lieutenant colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard, Tafanelli this summer accepted a program coordinator's position with the National Agricultural Bioterrorism Center at Kansas State University. He and his wife, Tammy, and their two children live outside Ozawkie.
Hanson, who lives between Oskaloosa and McLouth, raises cattle and practices law in Kansas City. He is divorced; his son is a junior at Kansas University, his daughter is a senior at Oskaloosa High School.
Hanson sought the 47th District seat in 1990, running against Lana Leach in the Democratic primary. Their race ended in a 348-348 tie.
After a recount, Leach was declared the winner by five votes. She lost to Tafanelli in the general election.
Hanson was unopposed in the this year's Democratic primary.