Q. In what ways has your personal experience in work, education or other areas, prepared you to be a legislator?
A. For more than a decade, I have taught college courses — teaching at a traditional campus, on-site adult-degree program and online. I value education and life-long learning. I enjoy the process of asking questions, uncovering information and studying issues. Being a legislator requires one to read and assimilate a lot of information in a limited amount of time. We place about 500 votes during the three-month session. I also own a small business, so I understand how public policy can sound good in Topeka, but have unintended consequences where we live.
Q. What is the most important issue in the 72nd District and what is your plan to address it?
A. The state’s financial woes are still on the front burner. Six years ago we had cash reserves. Each year since, the budget has come in around 8 percent over revenue. We spent down our reserves and began issuing certificates of indebtedness.
I didn’t vote for these budgets, but they passed. It is easier to vote for more spending than to be labeled as “anti” something. The most important issue related to the state’s finances is for businesses to grow and hire again.
More people working will mean more revenue to the state. I see a positive domino effect: jobs, stability for the state’s budget, and prosperity for Kansans.
Q. Are there ways for the state legislature to support projects in Harvey County, like the Logistics Park?
A. Yes, the State can and has encouraged infrastructure projects.
Q. In what areas of the state budget should cuts be made? Are there any areas where spending should be increased?
A. Sometimes the word “cut” is used even when there has been an increase in funding, but less of an increase than anticipated or desired.
Until we can increase revenue, it would not be wise to leverage ourselves further. People understand this in their own budgets. There are numerous ways to use existing dollars more efficiently.
Q. What could you do to keep taxes low for your constituents? Under what circumstances would you vote for increases?
A. Kansas tax rates have risen above our neighboring states. Ten years ago, this was not the case. Kansas state government has grown, but we have lost private-sector jobs.
More private-sector jobs mean more revenue to the state. Then, if we can keep spending in line with revenue, raising taxes will not be an issue.
Q. What can be done on the state level to encourage job creation? If elected, what would you propose?
A. If we really want existing businesses to grow and we want new ones to come to Kansas, create jobs and start hiring, there’s no mystery to it. It has to make sense to them financially. We have to be competitive with neighboring states.
If our tax rates are higher, businesses will go elsewhere and no amount of political angst will change it. Capital goes where it is appreciated. We cannot tax our way into prosperity.
Q. To what degree should the state subsidize industries or offer tax breaks to keep jobs in the state?
A. I’m not fond of government picking winners and losers in any sector. It creates a culture rife for favoritism. I like consistency and a level playing field. Kansas is a great state. There are so many reasons for companies to want to relocate or remain here, but we need to create a tax and business climate that allows us to stay competitive.
Q. What ideas do you have for education reform? Do you support federal mandates like No Child Left Behind? If not, what would be a better approach?
A. I prefer local, community-driven choice over national initiatives. There are a number of innovations available. Many states have seen success with charter schools, online public schools, and programs where the money follows the child. I’d like to see more money make it to teachers and the classroom.
State funding for education has increased 18 percent and total funding for education (including federal and local tax levies) by 26 percent over the last five years, yet the percentage going to classroom instruction in the state overall has not increased.
Q. What can be done to make higher education more affordable at state institutions?
A. The way we educate students is going to change dramatically over the next decade. Open sourcing of textbook and syllabus materials, more online classes, etc., are an indication of where we are headed. Having taught on a traditional campus and online, I understand the debate, but I can tell you firsthand that the questions students pose and the online discussions that take place go more quickly to the heart of a subject than traditional lecture-test settings.
The next generation will expect these innovations. For more on this subject, see my article in the Kansan, Dec. 21, 2009: “Survival is not Mandatory.”
Q. Should Kansas adopt stricter immigration laws or impose harsher financial penalties against businesses that employ undocumented workers? Are there other solutions you would propose if elected?
A. People from all over the world would love to come and stay in this country—many for good reasons, some with less noble intentions. Countries that cannot manage immigration face dire consequences financially and otherwise.
Companies that disregard the law may enhance their bottom line, but they are not being altruistic. They avoid paying taxes, such as federal and state withholding, social security, unemployment, while other companies following the law struggle to stay in business.
Laws must be consistent and enforced. We need to welcome immigrants and provide a path to citizenship that does not reward cutting in line.