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Archive for Sunday, July 23, 2006

Q & A with Tim Pickell

July 23, 2006

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Tim Pickell, Republican from Westwood, is among the seven Republican candidates vying to represent the GOP in the November general election. The winner of the GOP primary will face Democratic incumbent Kathleen Sebelius.

Age: 53

Family: Married to Kim; three children

Religion: Presbyterian

Education: Bachelor of Arts from Westminster College, Fulton, Mo.; law degree from Kansas University

Occupation: Attorney

Political and governmental experience: Former vice chair of Wyandotte County Republican Party; past president of Johnson County Bar Assn.

What would you do to ensure that Kansas has a constitutional school finance system?

I believe we do have a constitutional school finance system, although the level of funding was deemed "inadequate" in the recent Montoy case brought by a group of school patrons from Salina. With the legislature's own study being the only evidence before it, the District Court, affirmed by the Supreme Court, held that that inadequate funding existed and therefore, that significant increased funding, per the study, was required to provide a constitutionally-required "suitable" education to Kansas children. The school finance formula does need to be fixed. That will take considerable study, as this would be the 3rd revision in 10 years. I favor removing the spending cap on the local option budget, meaning that local school districts, subject to their patrons' approval, could increase local educational spending as they see fit.

Do you believe the Kansas Supreme court has overstepped its authority, and if so, what, if anything, would you proposed to do about it?

No, the Supreme Court did not overstep its authority. As the third co-equal branch of government, the Supreme Court is required to address constitutional issues that affect Kansans. The Supreme Court did not solicit the recent education case. The bottom line issue was adequacy of funding education in Kansas. The only evidence before the Court was the legislature's own study which the court adopted. However, it gave the legislature sufficient time to craft its own spending plan to meet the needs of Kansas children. The legislature's own inaction caused the problem that led to the court case, not an "activist" court. Historically, the Kansas Supreme Court has been a well-regarded court, not an "activist" court.

If you are elected, name three proposals you would work on immediately?

(1) I would immediately implement the office of State Auditor, initially using private funding, if necessary, when seeking funding of a permanent office. The cost of an auditor's office will be 1/20th of 1% of the state's annual budget. Kansas is 1 of 4 states without an auditor! An auditor's office acts as the "watchdog" of how Kansas taxpayers' money is being spent, and will work tirelessly, under my leadership, to dramatically cut wasteful spending and find ways to consolidate wasteful programs. I believe millions in savings can be found in the initial year. Without the accountability and oversight an auditor provides, why would any department request a reduction in spending? It doesn't happen in my household (i.e., my children's allowances!) nor will it happen at the state government level where billions of dollars are at stake.

(2) I would immediately have a simple bill, copying a Georgia plan that would create a high-speed internet access authority and allow high-speed internet access throughout Kansas to all communities that do not have it. Without internet access, new business will not relocate, stifling our local economies. Along with this, I will focus on efforts to revitalize our less popular, rural areas through tax incentives to encourage rehabilitation of the "mainstreets" of Kansas.

Kansas must become a leader in the production of alternative, renewable

energy, including ethanol, wind, solar, etc. Other states (i.e., New York) are beating us to the punch in this critical area. Under my leadership, Kansas will become a national leader, a natural fit for our agricultural state with its ample crops (corn, soybeans, even prairie grass) to produce ethanol. This will dramatically impact our economy, creating jobs in many sectors, and providing revenues needed to provide services to Kansans (i.e., roads, schools, etc.)

Do you support expansion of casino gambling. If not, why not, and if so, why and what kind of expansion would you push for?

I am philosophically opposed to expansion of gambling or the use of gambling to provide state revenues. However, I would support limited expansion where gambling already exists, such as the Woodlands Racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas. If that limited expansion is truly successful and the additional funds raised are 100% earmarked to a specific purpose (such as education), I would listen to further expansion proposals. But again, from upbringing, I do not believe gambling is the way to fund our state.

What, if anything, would you do about illegal immigration in Kansas?

This is a federal issue; however, anytime you reward illegal behavior, you get more of it. The current governor has done just that by encouraging the giving of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and by providing special in-state tuition breaks. Providing driver's licenses will lead to significant voter fraud, a frightening concern to me. I would also like to see Kansas take the lead in asking the U. S. Supreme Court to revisit the meaning of the "citizenship clause" (in the14th amendment). I believe it is possible that most children born of illegal immigrants would not be considered American citizens simply because they are born on American soil. That would stem the tide of approximately 400,000 new citizens each year (those born of illegal immigrants each year), significantly reducing the motivation to move here illegaly. I also support the use of the National Guard to enforce our borders against illegal immigration.

What would you do to promote economic development?

By establishing a State Auditor, the message to all citizens and businesses who locate here is that Kansas acts to eliminate wasteful spending and unnecessary, duplicative government programs in every arena. In addition, through my rural revitalization plan, high-speed internet access would soon be available to all Kansas communities (in less than 2 years), encouraging expansion of businesses in less populated areas. Similarly, the use of tax credits and incentives to encourage the rehabilitation of our "main streets" would encourage improvement of those communities, rather than their continued decline. Further, by leading in the production of alternative, renewable energy such as ethanol, economic expansion would occur to the benefit of all citizens, in particular in rural areas. Finally, if we cut waste in our educational spending, as well as revisit the manner the school formula is applied statewide, we will signal our return to the goal of "excellent" not merely "suitable" education for our children, returning Kansas to its leadership position in public education.

What would you do to improve or expand availability of health care: What do you think of Governor Sebelius' initiative?

Due to lack of leadership, Governor Sebelius' initiative failed. With leadership, not "followership," and transparent, open cooperation of the legislature - - and I mean all extremes in both parties - - I would lead as governor in this and other issues. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, has several ideas being used in other states such as Virginia and Vermont. Those ideas include government-led buying pools that allow small businesses and in some cases, individuals, to purchase affordable insurance. Further, requiring greater "profitability" of health insurance is essential. Finally, providing appropriate tax incentives, greater than we now have, to having health insurance, rather than letting it lapse, will encourage folks to hold onto the insurance they have. I am in favor of providing insurance for our poorest children that are not currently covered under health insurance.

How would you deal with the $600 million work of deferred maintenance at the state universities?

Through the office of the State Auditor I will establish, I'll take a hard look at what maintenance is and is not needed and the actual cost of such maintenance. To get that done might require a 1-time user fee to students that would benefit them by allowing those improvements. In addition, as was successfully done at the University of Kansas, I would encourage private fundraising efforts at our institutions of higher learning to help deal with maintenance issues, at least in part. I strongly believe in a "pay as you go" approach to address the most critical maintenance needed on a priority basis.

What is your stance on drug crimes and what they mean for prison occupancy? Have you ever used illegal drugs or been arrested or charged with a crime?

Sentencing for drug crimes boils down to "proportionality". By that, I mean that it seems out of proportion to have long-term sentences for relatively minor drug crimes that essentially hurt only the individuals involved, with lesser penalties for more serious crimes. The net result of this is crowded prisons, not rehabilitation. Our focus should be on rehabilitation in a much stronger way, although individuals must be accountable for their own behavior. To think that the woman who recently planned, aided, and abetted the prison break of a dangerous Lansing inmate was only sentenced to 2 years in prison and that someone such as the teenager young adult that experiments with an illegal drug - - they are inappropriate - - gets a stricter sentence, is what I mean by proportionality in sentencing. I do not want to see anyone use illegal drugs as they are harmful to the person, their friends, and often, quite tragically, their families. That "proportionality" is in order with sentencing. I have not been arrested or charged with a crime. I did engage in underage drinking while a college student, I must admit. Fortunately, it wasn't a problem to me and I managed to graduate 2nd in my college class despite some learning experiences.

What do you think about the prospect of the Kansas National Guardsmen being sent to patrol the border?

I have no problem with that, although they want Congress, which must address this thorny, federal problem, to clearly determine what the expectation is in patrolling our borders to reduce or eliminate illegal immigration. It is a virtually impossible task and without proper planning, could be a waste of time and resources, if we aren't careful. Nonetheless, I am in support, philosophically, of this approach, however, unless we reduce the flow of illegal immigration, we are simply sending the message that it's permitted and, believe me, it will continue unchecked and lead to potentially ruinous financial consequences for our country.

What do you think about the simultaneous drawdowns of the Ogallalah aquiver and the Hugoton gas fields?

This is a very thorny issue. Sufficient water supply is always a problem, especially in drought-like conditions such as we have experienced the past several years.

What is the best solution to the depopulation/aging of so many Kansas counties?

I have a "rural revitalization" plan, as discussed above. Using a simple bill to create an internet-access authority initially and quickly, I will follow the model set by Georgia, a simple (2-page) bill that created just such an authority in the form of a commission and in the end, allowed high-speed internet access to reach throughout that state in several years. We can do this in Kansas in 2 years or less if we put our minds to it. Access to high-speed internet will immediately create an opportunity for businesses to relocate in our less populated areas. Without internet, they won't. In addition, we must enhance tax incentives, likely tax credits specifically targeted to encouraging investment to rehabilitate our "main streets" throughout Kansas. Deterioration of many towns cannot occur and must be discouraged. Further, we can do much better in creating a welcoming and open climate to encourage local investment in communities. Despite 3-4 phone calls to the Huck Boyd Rural Institute in Manhattan, Kansas, I never had the courtesy of a return phone call. That tells me we are in trouble. I know we can do better than that. As governor, lip service to rural revitalization will be over - - leadership with short-, and long-term goals will occur. Of course, significant governor-leadership in the area of production of alternative, renewable energy sources such as ethanol is a must. Kansas must become a leader, not a follower in this exploding industry. And production of alternative energy creates great job opportunities in many sectors for Kansas communities. Let's get with it.

What do you think about small percentage of public access land in Kansas?

This question, as worded, is confusing. Maintaining access for Kansas to its public lands is important and must be safeguarded each year. These lands provide tourist attractions and must be safeguarded.

What do you consider the top environmental concerns in the state and nation and where do you rank those concerns among their priorities?

I hate to again say it, but this question is also a bit confusing, as worded! Pollution of waterways and our air must be checked by appropriate action. There is a reasonable balance between manufacturing and production and maintaining our precious environment. We are called to take care of our country's natural resources. Alternative energy sources will both lead to economic expansion but also to reduction in pollution levels and less reliance on foreign powers that dislike us. There is no excuse for pollution and appropriate tightening of admission standards and penalties should be done.

What type of cabinet would you assemble and what would try to accomplish in your first 6 months in office?

This is the easiest question. My cabinet would be full of people committed to putting deadlines to dreams by establishing goals and action plans. I would pick the best, energetic, people I could find, regardless of age, education, gender, race. My Lt. Governor, Jeff McCalmon, (a lifetime banker, used to bank examiners and constant audits!) would be put in charge of implementing our State Auditor, a critical piece of my economic plan to cut wasteful spending, and find ways to consolidate inefficient programs in every arena. I do not want "yes" people in my cabinet, but rather people determined to serve the public good, not a particular political party. I hope to lead by example and to have a "transparent" form of leadership, marked by good humor and open discussion, regardless of who gets credit for the best ideas. I'm running for governor to serve and to get us moving. I want to get us moving immediately, not by the end of a 4-year term. Folks have always questioned lofty goals, but strong leadership gets goals accomplished. My cabinet would be full of vigor, as well as a bit of vinegar (fun-loving). And open to any and all good ideas that would best serve Kansans.

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