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Republican Lynn Jenkins and Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda on Monday traded charges over taxes and their official duties in a spirited debate at Kansas University's Dole Institute of Politics.
The two are vying to represent Kansas' 2nd Congressional District, which includes west Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and much of southeast Kansas.
Jenkins, the state treasurer, accused Boyda of "voting for the largest tax increase that the nation has ever seen." Jenkins added that she has signed a pledge to never vote for a tax increase.
But Boyda, in her first term of office, said Jenkins' statement was a "gross misrepresentation." And she noted that Jenkins, when she served in the state Legislature, voted for a huge tax increase.
Jenkins' allegation stems from a vote Boyda made with other Democrats for a nonbinding budget resolution to balance the budget by 2012 while still funding critical needs.
The resolution assumed that President Bush's tax cuts would expire as scheduled at the end of 2010, which was how the tax cuts were structured under the Republican-controlled Congress in 2001 and 2003.
But Boyda has said Democrats want to extend those tax cuts for the middle class. And even the tax cuts for the wealthy could be extended, she said, if Congress would end big subsidies to oil companies and major health insurers.
Boyda said that Jenkins was the only one in the race that has voted for a tax increase, and that Jenkins did so after first saying she wouldn't.
In 2002, when Jenkins was a state senator, she said she would oppose a state sales tax increase but then voted for a $294 million tax increase, which included raising sales, inheritance, cigarette and liquor taxes. Jenkins has said the tax increase was needed to balance the state's budget.
Boyda also asked Jenkins whether she would vote to end subsidies to oil and pharmaceutical companies, but Jenkins declined, saying she would not support any kind of tax increase. Boyda said the anti-tax pledge Jenkins has taken would prevent Jenkins from even trying to close a tax loophole being abused by businesses trying to evade taxes.
Jenkins took Boyda to task for momentarily leaving a congressional hearing in 2007 on the war in Iraq. Jenkins said Boyda's behavior was disrespectful and an affront. "You are supposed to listen," Jenkins told Boyda.
Boyda said she went into a side room for no longer than 10 minutes after retired Army Gen. Jack Keane told members of Congress to back off a bill dealing with the war.
In her closing remarks, Boyda fired back that Jenkins had missed four consecutive meetings of the board of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System during a period when the pension system lost $1 billion in investment income.
"You need to look at yourself," Boyda said to Jenkins, who as the state treasurer is a member of the KPERS board.
After the debate, when asked about missing the KPERS meetings, Jenkins said, "I've been a little busy. I have lots of balls in the air right now." Jenkins said that although she didn't attend the meetings, she is in weekly contact with the KPERS staff. "I'm fully engaged," she said.
The two candidates also disagreed about a recent proposal to increase funding to the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which would have increased the number of low-income children getting health care. Boyda voted for the measure, saying it was paid for by ending some subsidies to large health insurance companies. But Jenkins said she opposed the bill, which was eventually vetoed by President Bush.
The televised debate was sponsored by the Voter Education Coalition and The World Company. It was moderated by KU law professor Mike Kautsch.