Secretary of State Kris Kobach, 52, R-Lecompton, is running for governor to cut spending, cut taxes and fight illegal immigration.
Kobach was elected secretary of state in 2010. He said that during his time in office, he has cut his agency’s budget from $7 million to $4.6 million.
“We cut it every single year,” he said. “I was determined to find out if I could disprove the old adage that government never shrinks and I succeeded.”
According to Kobach, he was able to reduce his budget by not refilling some positions that became vacant when baby boomers retired.
“We were able to shrink the workforce by 19 percent,” he said. “If I can do that with one state agency, as governor I can and will do the same thing with a multitude of state agencies.”
Kobach has also served as an Overland Park city councilman and as chairman of the Kansas Republican Party.
In 2012, Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law income tax cuts approved by the Kansas Legislature. Those tax cuts were partially repealed by a bill approved by the Kansas Legislature last year.
Kobach said he opposes the Legislature’s 2017 tax cut repeal bill.
“The problem with the Brownback tax cuts was not that he cut taxes, it was that he did not cut spending,” he said. “If you are going to cut taxes, you have to cut spending. I will not put the cart before the horse. I will cut spending immediately upon taking office and then we will cut taxes. I am 100 percent opposed to both the 2015 sales tax hike and the 2017 income tax hike.”
According to Kobach, he is the only Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate who has signed a pledge not to increase taxes if elected. The pledge is sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, an organization that opposes tax increases.
This year, the Kansas Legislature pledged to increase annual spending on education by $640 million, which would be phased in over the next five years. Kobach opposes this spending increase.
“I think the increase was too much,” he said. “I think it puts a huge burden on Kansas taxpayers.”
Kobach wants the Legislature to approve a measure that would require school districts to spend more money in the classroom.
“Right now, state wide, only about 53 percent of our education dollars are going to the classroom, the rest are going to administrators, buildings and sports facilities,” he said. “My proposal is to have a statutory requirement that 75 cents of every dollar is spent in the classroom, which means teachers’ salaries, books, computers and teaching materials. It might mean that some school administrators would lose their jobs, but that’s ok. My plan would result in more money in the classroom even if the total amount remained the same.”
Kobach, who taught constitutional law for 15 years at the University of Missouri - Kansas City, supports amending the Kansas Constitution to prevent courts from deciding whether the legislature is adequately funding education in the state.
“I do think it should be amended,” he said. “That said, I believe the constitution already makes clear the courts should not be deciding appropriation amounts. The legislative power is held exclusively by the Kansas Legislature and appropriating dollars is part of the legislative power.”
Kobach added that a constitutional amendment would not be needed if the Kansas Supreme Court were correctly interpreting the Kansas constitution.
Another one of Kobach’s priorities would be fighting illegal immigration.
Under a law signed by Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2004, illegal immigrants who have lived in Kansas since they were young children and graduated from a Kansas high school pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. Kobach wants to require these students to pay out-of-state tuition rates.
“There are 670 illegal aliens, according to last year’s numbers, who are getting this in-state tuition, which is a subsidy from the taxpayer.”
Kobach also supports approving legislation that would prohibit illegal immigrants from obtaining other state benefits.