Archive for Sunday, October 29, 2006

Financial issues central to governor’s race

Candidates differ on solutions for school funding, economy

October 29, 2006

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Jim Barnett

Jim Barnett

Carl Kramer

Carl Kramer


Richard Ranzau

Richard Ranzau


Gov. Kathleen Sebelius talks with the media Wednesday about what the Kansas Legislature accomplished this session. She spoke in her office at the Statehouse.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius talks with the media Wednesday about what the Kansas Legislature accomplished this session. She spoke in her office at the Statehouse.

School finance, the state of the Kansas economy and illegal immigration have been the major issues in the governor's race.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat from Topeka, is asking voters for another four years. Jim Barnett, a Republican state senator from Emporia, also wants the job of Kansas chief executive.

The race also features two minor party candidates, Libertarian Carl Kramer and Reform Party candidate Richard Ranzau. Both are from Wichita.

Sebelius is running on her record, listing her accomplishments as reducing government waste, getting a constitutional school finance plan in place and reigniting the economy.

Barnett said the Kansas economy lags other states and his plan for tax cuts would be the best way to increase economic development.

School finance

Sebelius signed into law the $466 million, three-year funding increase approved by the Legislature and accepted by the Kansas Supreme Court to end a long-running lawsuit. Earlier, the court had ruled the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanged students, especially those from low-income districts.

Sebelius vows to keep the plan in place for the second and third years, saying she would veto any attempts to reduce its funding.

Barnett fought the plan in the Legislature, saying it was too expensive and will drive the budget into deficit or force a tax increase or expanded casino gambling. He said he would work for a smaller plan.

Economy

When Sebelius took office in January 2003, the Kansas economy was reeling from the 9/11 recession that hit aircraft manufacturing in the Wichita area especially hard.

State government was broke and looking at a possible $1 billion budget shortfall. Through borrowing, belt-tightening and accounting maneuvers, Sebelius and the Legislature balanced the budget. Sebelius also brags about job creation during her administration and the fact that she called for and signed business tax cuts in the last legislative session.

Barnett says Kansas is falling behind other states and has proposed cutting personal and business taxes to stimulate the economy. He has criticized the state's increased debt and past proposals by Sebelius to increase taxes, which have been rejected by the Legislature.

Illegal immigration

Barnett has taken Sebelius to task for approving a law that allows children of certain undocumented workers to attend college paying the less expensive in-state tuition rates.

Sebelius notes immigrants qualify for in-state rates only if they've lived in Kansas at least three years and promise to seek legal status. Last year, 221 students took advantage of the law.

Sebelius has managed to bring moderate Republicans to her side. In 2002, she picked John Moore, a Republican turned Democrat, as running mate. When Moore announced he was retiring this year, Sebelius announced former state Republican Party Chairman Mark Parkinson would become a Democrat and run as her lieutenant governor.

When Barnett was first elected to the state Senate in 2000, he was considered moderate-leaning. But he turned right in recent years and picked as his running mate state Sen. Susan Wagle, a Wichita conservative.

In August, he won the Republican Party primary in what was considered a weak field after the GOP's bigger names announced they weren't in the race.

Sebelius has raised more money than Barnett. Prior to the Aug. 1 primaries, she had $2.1 million. She was expected to spend about $4 million in the general election campaign versus Barnett's $1 million.

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