There are two men running for Kansas House District No. 72, incumbent Tim Hodge (D-North Newton) and challenger Steve Kelly (R-Newton).
Hodge works as a lawyer in Newton. Kelly retired after serving as president and CEO of Newton Medical Center.
Early voting polls are open at the Harvey County Courthouse. Election day polls will be open Nov. 6.
Why are you running for the Kansas House?
Hodge: I’m running for re-election to the Kansas House to continue to fight for working Kansans. I promised two years ago to end the failed Brownback experiment, restore the child care tax credit and restore tax deductions that were slashed to pay for the failure of Brownback’s experiment. I’m pleased to say, we accomplished most of that, but working Kansans are still suffering. We pay one of the highest sales tax rates on groceries, and that needs to change. If re-elected, I will continue to fight to make Kansas a better place to live and raise a family.
Kelly: I believe that I can be an effective representative for our community and bring skills to Topeka that help get problems solved. I demonstrated those skills as President/CEO of Newton Medical Center through working with our schools, businesses, government, law enforcement, clergy, physicians, vendors, and other entities. Our excellent health care system far exceeds what anyone believed could be accomplished in Newton, and the main reason is the ability to bring various groups together to solve complex problems. I chaired the Kansas Hospital Association where the skill to build consensus among many different viewpoints allowed us to accomplish writing and promoting Medicaid Expansion. My last big project was helping to bring in the YMCA, a task that many thought would fail.
What do you think about Kansas (2012) lowering and raising (2017) the state income taxes while hiking the sales tax rate (2015)?
Kelly: I would have tied the benefits of the 2012 tax reduction for LLCs and S-Corps to creating/expanding health care benefits for their employees and to the number of jobs created. I would have voted to restore these taxes in 2017 because of the financial crises that the cuts had created in our state. A prime priority of state government should be fiscal stability and responsibility.
Hodge: It was wrong when, in 2012, Kansas eliminated income taxes on billionaire business owners and in those years we gave almost $750,000,000 to about 3,000 people, while raising sales taxes on working Kansans. Thankfully, two-thirds of the legislature came together and ended those income tax exemptions, while the child care tax credit and medical expenses and mortgage interest deductions were restored.
Do you believe the $525 million, five-year school finance plan adopted by the 2018 Legislature complies with the Kansas Constitution?
Hodge: Not quite, but we’re close. Had the legislature adopted the Trimmer Amendment, I think it would have complied. Since ending the failed Brownback experiment, we have stabilized state revenues enough to now comply with the courts’ ruling and begin to roll back the sales tax on groceries.
Kelly: I am a strong supporter of public schools. I would have voted for this bill.
Is it necessary for legislators and Kansas voters to amend the state constitution to limit the power of the judicial branch to dictate levels of state aid to public schools?
Kelly: I believe that appropriating money for all spending is within the authority of the legislature and I am supportive of a constitutional amendment clarifying the roles of the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
Why should, or why shouldn’t, the state government in Kansas expand eligibility for Medicaid? If expanded, do you support work or training requirements for, “able-bodied” recipients?
Hodge: Kansans are already paying the taxes for Medicaid expansion to the federal government, yet we refuse to expand healthcare to hard working Kansans and accept the money back. Medicaid expansion would help working Kansans the most as they are most likely to fall in to the current coverage gaps. Hard working Kansans should have access to better health care, but most importantly, our hospitals should be compensated for the care they are already providing.
Kelly: We need to solve the problem of the uninsured in Kansas. I believe that Medicaid expansion is part of the solution but even then more than 100,000 Kansans are without coverage. I would like to explore how partnerships such as the one between Newton Medical Center and Health Ministries (which provides physician care, dental services, a discounted pharmacy and mental health) can be expanded throughout the state. With this model, no person in their community should be without health care, regardless of their ability to pay. Most communities have a hospital and community health center so such a structure is already there. We just need a champion to make these ideas a reality. I plan to be that champion.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are being diverted from the state’s highway program to support the government’s base budget. How is this appropriate or not?
Kelly: I believe that money appropriated to projects should not be fair game to balance the budget unless there is an unavoidable financial crisis. When the financial crisis is over, the money should be replaced in the accounts from where it came, such as the highway fund.
Hodge: It’s not appropriate, and is a result of the lasting damage caused by the failed Brownback experiment. Hopefully, over the next few years, we’ll be able to plug the hole caused from the Brownback experiment to stop robbing the highway fund.
In what ways should Kansas firearm laws be modified to address violent crime?
Hodge: I would not advocate any change to Kansas current firearms laws. Law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their constitutional rights without interference from the state government.
Kelly: I strongly support the second amendment of the Bill of Rights that guarantees law abiding citizens the right to own firearms. A common thread among many of the mass shooters is that they have/had mental health problems. These records should be available and considered in their purchase of weapons! I understand the sensitivity of mental health information but with the purchase of firearms, the welfare and safety of others exceeds their need for confidentiality.
How would you reform state law regarding the availability of abortion services?
Kelly: I strongly support the rights of the unborn and am proud that my first endorsement was from Kansans for Life.
Hodge: Kansas needs more services to help prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies as well as support for families in crisis situations. I am proud to have offered an amendment that would have helped fund crisis pregnancy centers, like Heartland here in Newton.
Is it necessary for Kansas to follow other states with term limits for House and Senate
members? If so, what do you propose? If not, why not?
Hodge: Kansas has elections every two years for House members and four years for the Senate. 2016 proved that voters know when they need to make a change in their representation.
Kelly: I support term limits of 10 years for the House and twelve years for the Senate . With two years out of office, I would allow them to once again seek their positions in government.