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Archive for Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Candidate questionnaire: 19th Senate District

October 30, 2012

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Sen. Anthony Hensley and Casey Moore, his Republican challenger in the race for the state's 19th Senate District, were asked to answer a questionnaire about some important issues. The questions and their answers are below.

1) There has been concern that the tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback will prevent adequate funding of schools, social services and public safety and other areas of the state budget. Do you support or oppose the tax cuts? Please explain your reasons. In addition, do you think there should be any changes to the tax cuts in the next legislative session? If so, please provide specific details. Should the temporary portion of the sales tax increase be allowed to expire in 2013 or kept in place?

HENSLEY:

Despite fervent opposition, Sam Brownback in May signed into law a massive $3.7 billion tax cut that will ravage our state coffers while shifting the tax burden onto working Kansans.

Governor Brownback claims these tax cuts will help create jobs and grow the economy, but he is wrong. No-income tax states performed the same or worse than states with high income taxes on measures such as economic output, unemployment, and household income. And states without an income tax have higher sales or property taxes, on average, than states with an income tax.

While Governor Brownback is focused on tax breaks to special interests and the wealthiest Kansans, he’s refused to address Kansas’ real tax problem – property taxes. Kansans already pay more in property taxes than 40 other states. But Governor Brownback’s plan eliminates income taxes for nearly all non-wage earners, meaning property taxes will have to increase to make up the difference.

It’s happened in other no-income states. It will happen in Kansas.

Instead of cutting income taxes for the wealthiest Kansans, I believe that tax cuts should be provided first and foremost to working Kansas families. That’s why, this year, I proposed $180 million in targeted property tax relief for working Kansans. Unfortunately, Governor Brownback and his allies stopped this plan.

In May, the Topeka Capital Journal published a guest column I wrote titled “It’s a tax shift”, which encompasses my thoughts on taxes. You can read it here.

Next session, I would like to see the food sales tax rebate and the child care tax credit restored. These rebates help low-income working families and seniors on fixed incomes, who are disproportionately affected by tax cuts to the wealthy.

I also believe that the state should keep the promise we made to sunset the 0.6 % temporary sales tax increase. The remainder will help sustain a transportation program now threatened by Governor Brownback’s tax plan, create thousands of jobs for Kansas workers, create investment opportunities in every Kansas county, and bring $6.4 billion to our state economy within the next decade.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

2) The state is the target of a lawsuit that alleges the Legislature has shirked its constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools. Does the state need to increase funding to public schools? Please explain your answer.

HENSLEY:

Yes. The state should invest more in public schools.

Sam Brownback’s tax plan will prevent the legislature from restoring school funding cuts, forcing us to cut even more, and forcing local school districts to lay off teachers, increase fees, and increase class sizes to make ends meet.

Kansas schools have already endured seven rounds of devastating cuts in just three years. As a result, base state aid per pupil is now $530 below 2009 levels while school district general fund budgets are nearly 9% below 2009.

Because local units of government and schools rely on the same tax base, Sam Brownback’s plan will dramatically increase local property taxes.

Instead of giving a tax cut to the wealthy and to corporations, we should work to fully fund our schools, keeping class sizes down and ensuring top quality teachers are in our classrooms.

To begin restoring cuts to Kansas public schools, I introduced a bill this session that would have adequately and fairly funded all schools without overhauling the current formula. Senate Bill 350 would have begun restoring these cuts immediately by properly funding the current formula while protecting essential weightings for at-risk students.

In just three years, my plan would have restored funding by $267 per student while at the same time holding the line on local property tax increases. And by restoring cuts incrementally, school boards would have been given the certainty they need to plan for the most urgent needs facing their local schools.

Although this plan failed to receive approval this year, I will continue to pursue this solution. I believe it’s our best option to adequately fund the state’s current formula without throwing away years of progress.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

3) Various proposals have come up in the Legislature that would allow state dollars or tax credits to be used to finance a voucher system for students to attend private or parochial schools. Would you vote in favor of such a measure? Please explain your position on vouchers.

HENSLEY:

While I believe that education should be a top priority in our state, I do not agree that vouchers are the answer we’re looking for.

Voucher systems have traditionally reached only a small percentage of the community. Yet, the cost is placed on a majority of Kansas students.

After seven rounds of devastating cuts, Kansas public schools have limited resources. I believe it is best that we focus those resources on the well-being of all school children, not just a select few.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

4) Gov. Sam Brownback wants the Legislature to approve a bill that would give Kansas governors greater control over appointing judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals. Currently, the governor must select an appeals court judge from among three nominees chosen by a nominating commission. Brownback supports legislation that would allow him to pick his own appointee subject to Senate confirmation. Do you support or oppose this effort? Please provide your reasons.

HENSLEY:

The judiciary is an independent and co-equal branch of government designed to provide stability against the political winds. Changing the system to one where the Governor appoints and the Senate confirms judges would only politicize judicial appointments. Therefore, I believe our current system of appointing judges is appropriate and should remain.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

5) The Brownback administration is trying to reform the state's Medicaid program by turning it over to three private, managed-care insurance companies under a plan called KanCare. Do you support or oppose this proposal? Please provide an explanation.

HENSLEY:

One of the biggest challenges facing disabled Kansans and advocates is Sam Brownback’s controversial plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid system by transitioning to a new program called KanCare.

Changing to a privately-operated managed care system that uses for-profit corporations is the largest transaction in state history, and will affect the way 350,000 Kansans receive the health care services they need to live healthy, independent lives.

Most concerning to me is how this change to privatized care will affect thousands of developmentally disabled recipients. Many still fear that the long-term needs of disabled Kansans cannot be appropriately met by a private program, and that the new system won’t properly address the nearly 5,000 developmentally disabled Kansans still waiting to receive in-home care.

Every year, Medicaid costs continue to grow approximately 7.5 percent.

We all agree that something needs to be done.

But while we look for ways to contain Medicaid’s rising costs, we must not overlook the need for expanded home and community-based services and consumer-directed service options. The needs of disabled Kansans must come first before cuts in spending.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

6) During the last legislative session, the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback failed to come up with redistricting plans. Would you support legislation that would establish an independent commission to redraw legislative and congressional districts?

HENSLEY:

Yes. Last session, Governor Brownback and his allies introduced a partisan plan that would have violated guidelines set forth by the redistricting advisory committee by diluting Democratic strongholds in Shawnee, Wyandotte and Douglas counties.

The process of redistricting should follow the “one person, one vote” principal. Districts should be impartial, fair, and represent every Kansans’ right to be represented.

Instead of allowing legislators to use the system for their own political advantage, Kansans should commission a non-partisan research group to draw the state’s maps.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

7) Last session, the Legislature debated, but ultimately did not pass, the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. Supporters say it will prevent government from forcing a person to violate their religious beliefs, while opponents say it would invite discrimination against gays and lesbians and invalidate a Lawrence anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation. Do you support or oppose such a bill? Please state your reasons.

HENSLEY:

I believe that local communities should have the right to enact local ordinances that include a protected class, if there is significant interest in doing so. Such laws should remain in the control of local communities, not the state Legislature.

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

8) What is your top priority if elected, and what would you do to get that done?

HENSLEY:

The most significant jobs package passed by the Kansas Legislature in the last decade has been 2009’s T-Works program. Three separate economic studies showed that the program will create 175,000 jobs in the next ten years.

Instead of creating new tax breaks for Kansans earning more than $250,000 a year, the legislature must maintain our commitment to the state’s 10-year transportation program.

We should also do more to keep projects here in Kansas. Kansas tax dollars shouldn’t be going to hire workers from other states when there are workers right here in Kansas that can perform the job.

This December I helped introduce a pro-jobs plan that included 14 pro-worker initiatives. One of those initiatives was the Hire Kansans First Act, which would require any contractor or subcontractor working on a state contract worth $100,000 or more annually to ensure that at least 70% of those employees working on the contract are Kansas residents (percentages will differ in the Kansas City metro area).

Additionally, any company seeking benefits under any of the following tax incentive programs also must employ at least a 70% Kansas workforce:

Promoting Employment Across Kansas Act (PEAK), the High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP), the Business and Jobs Development Tax Credit, and the Sales Tax and Revenue Bond Program (STAR Bonds).

MOORE:

Answers not yet submitted.

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