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Candidate questionnaire: How would you balance the state budget?
Today the statehouse candidates share their thoughts on the second item in the questionnaire developed with input from our readers:
2.) State fiscal analysts project the tax bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback in May could produce deficits reaching $2.5 billion by 2018. What specific government programs or services would you cut to balance the budget?
(If you need to lookup which district you’ll be voting for, check the Johnson County Election Office website).
Senate District 7
Kay Wolf (R)
The three legged stool of sales, property and income taxes have worked well for Kansas as the foundation of our quality of life. However, tax policy does need to be re-examined on a periodic basis to ensure it is still the best policy. We all want lower taxes both in our private and business life. I voted for a potential compromise tax bill lowering personal and business taxes with projections of a positive ending balance the next five years. I did not vote for HB2117 which ultimately was signed into law. I could not vote for a bill that placed Kansas in a deficit the first year ($362.5m) and by 2017 a $2.08 billion deficit. The impact to Kansas would be devastating if these projections prove accurate.
To shore up such losses the only options are to cut dollars for services and education, allow the 1 cent sales tax to remain, rob more dollars from the Transportation fund or mandate local units of government pick up more of the tab (raise your property taxes). None of these options are ones I will vote to instate.
Thorough re-examination of HB2117, phasing it in over a period of time and maintaining a positive ending balance is the responsible approach. Consolidation of small schools and community colleges in Western Kansas would aid in helping to reduce the deficit. However, passage of this type of legislation is not likely.
The argument is the massive tax cuts will grow the economy and make up for shortfalls in state revenue. What if they don’t? I was not willing to take that chance.
David Harvey (R)
Since the projections for the loss are hypothetical, I don’t think it would be responsible to address specific questions regarding those projections. With that said, I would like to state that these projections are static and don’t assume any pickup in economic activity. The next legislative body will need to address the budget issues that face our State and stop playing political games. If we assume that the income tax reduction were to be reversed, Kansas would still have a projected budget deficit in 2018. This fiscal crisis is being caused by Kansas ranking last in private sector job growth (1998 -2011), our GDP growing at a rate significantly below the U.S. average for the past 11 years (1.97% vs 2.21%). An economy needs to have nominal GDP growth of at least 2% per year just to hold employment constant and we need it growth at 3% or better to solve our state budget crisis. The State has borrowed over $4 billion and underfunding KPERS by at least $8B to hide its aggressive spending spree that occurred in the mid 2000s.
The time is now to fix our State’s fiscal issues. We need strong leadership that knows how to deal with these issues and work effectively with others. Playing political games in Topeka may provide fun and excitement for career politicians but I can assure you that I have no interest in those games.
House District 19
Bruce Belanger (R)
A government’s revenue target can be achieved through high tax on a lower level of economic activity or a low tax on a higher level of economic activity. I support lower taxes on higher activity. I would like to see Kansans keep more of what they earn and I would like to see more Kansans employed. We need to focus on the growth of our economy, in part, to expand our tax base.
On the expense side of the ledger, there are always opportunities to increase efficiency. We need to undertake an effort to aggressively identify areas to improve efficiency, eliminate waste, and streamline operations. There are significant savings that can be realized as a component of closing the budgetary gap. We should also look for opportunities to shrink government by identifying departments that could be reduced, eliminated, or combined considering today’s economic environment. Medicaid and KPERS are important programs with an increasing budget trend, and if the growth is not managed within the context of the entire State budget, there is the real possibility that other important areas of the budget will come under significant pressure. We need to position our state to be on a solid financial footing to be ready to grow and compete.
House District 25
Melissa Rooker (R)
A balanced, responsible tax policy that keeps taxes as low as possible while ensuring reliable services that address quality of life as well as meet state and federal mandates should be our goal. I will support efforts to ensure we are not wasting tax dollars, or duplicating effort. That said, I believe we have just seen a 3-year cycle of budget reductions that have left many of our state agencies stressed, shifted costs to cities and counties, and necessitated deep cuts to programs, which will create unintended costs in the long run. Instead of limiting our effort to close the funding gap through deeper cuts, I would support a phased approach with revisions to the 2011 tax package to balance tax policy in the state. Many legislators voting FOR this bill expressed misgivings about the size, promising to fix it later – a promise which many knew they never intended fulfill. We need to carefully consider the assumptions built into this bill – sustained 4% growth over 20 years (which Kansas has not seen in at least 5 years), creation of over 450,000 new jobs (a job for nearly every man, woman, and child in Johnson County), and savings to Medicaid of nearly $350 million (based on a Florida model now in deep crisis) – and rethink our approach. Cutting taxes at the expense of our schools, our communities and our future is no way to grow the economy.
Stephen Foster (R)
Did not respond.
This is why our government is broken. Each legislator has a project or programs that he/she feels should be cut, and a project or programs that he/she wants untouched. What we get is gridlock and stalemate. The starting point if drastic cuts were required should be to trim every program, top to bottom, proportionately.
I am the only candidate in the Republican Primary for the 25th House District that has actually had to put together a government budget and vote on a government budget. Budgets are inherently difficult in a democracy because consensus is virtually impossible to achieve, but from a practical standpoint, they are the most important thing we do. I can make the tough choices and look people in the eye with peace knowing that we all shared in the sacrifice.
Scott Gregory (D)
We all know that the schools and social services will take devastating hits if the Brownback Tax Bill stands. I refuse to talk about budget cuts, preferring to focus on undoing the unfair and irresponsible Brownback Tax Bill. I cannot do it alone, but if enough moderates get elected, maybe we can reverse the radical trend.
Megan England (D)
The recent recession has essentially reduced the Kansas budget for education, transportation and assistance for the elderly and those with special needs. I refuse to see deeper cuts made to education or transportation or to continue to have the budget balanced on the backs of those most vulnerable. The recent tax bill is reckless. I support a balanced approach with fair income, sales and property tax revenue to support Kansas services; this approach has a long history of working well for our state’s economy.
Tomorrow, we publish the answers to question three:
Do you think the state has a responsibility to ensure that all residents have access to adequate health care? Do you support the state creating a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act?
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