Emporia — Democrat Mark Parkinson and Republican Susan Wagle offered sharply different views on the Kansas economy Tuesday night in the only scheduled debate between the two candidates for lieutenant governor.
Taking questions at Emporia State University, they also disagreed about Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' record on illegal immigration during her first term in office.
Emporia is the hometown of state Sen. Jim Barnett, the Republican nominee for governor.
Parkinson said the top challenge for the state is finding ways to continue what he called Sebelius' achievements in improving the Kansas economy.
"Four years ago, Kansas was broke," Parkinson said. "We faced hundreds of millions of dollars in obligations."
Once in office, Parkinson said, Sebelius looked at every budget in state government and cut wasteful spending.
"She basically turned the state around," he said.
But Wagle, a state senator from Wichita, said Kansas is at a crossroads and has been rated 50th in the nation on private sector job growth. She called for lowering the income tax, eliminating the estate tax and increasing the child tax credit.
"If every paycheck you receive more money then the more (will be spent) and the more tax dollars will be generated and sent back to the state," Wagle said.
Parkinson disputed Wagle's characterization of job growth as poor, saying Kansas is gaining jobs faster than most neighboring states.
"Private sector employment is increasing faster around the state," he said. "Jobs have grown in the state."
Wagle agreed that there has been job growth, but said it's not enough.
"The truth of the matter is we're not growing anywhere near what other states are," she said, adding, "People are crossing the state lines in southeast Kansas to work in Oklahoma and Missouri."
Parkinson, an attorney from Johnson County and former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, called illegal immigration a major problem in Kansas.
"Our borders are basically unprotected at this time," he said.
"We need to make sure illegal immigrants aren't attracted to Kansas, and we need to crack down on employers who (hire) them."
Wagle responded that Sebelius has favored allowing people in the country to illegally obtain driver's licenses.