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Davis tired of waiting for change

7/28/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Being Kansas governor wasn't on Paul Davis' list of aspirations. The Lawrence Democrat said he's running out of a need for change.

"Over the past three-and-a-half years watching Gov. (Sam) Brownback, and I just think he's got us going in the wrong direction on so many fronts," Davis said. "I just feel really compelled to do something about it."

Davis said he's known his running mate, Jill Docking, Wichita, for approximately 20 years.

"We started a conversation two years ago about how concerned we were about what was happening in the state and decided something needed to be done about it," Davis said. "Finally ... we decided we were the people that needed to do it."

While in Hays campaigning Sunday, Davis, the House minority leader, listed the primary issues of the campaign -- education, economy, property taxes and income taxes.

Davis, the son of two teachers, said he's hearing "strong concern statewide" about education making it the pre-eminent issue of the campaign.

The state has had good public schools, "but (Kansans) are very concerned about the direction that things are going right now. ... They're worried their children and grandchildren are not going to get the kind of quality education that I certainly got growing up in Kansas."

He and his wife, Stephanie, have a 4-year-old daughter, Caroline. So it's also a personal issue.

"My wife and I are concerned about the kind of education our daughter is going to get," Davis said.

The state's economy is not where it should be, he said.

"The Brownback tax plan has promised to bear great economic fruit, and we just haven't seen that," he said.

Studies show there's been a tax shift from income taxes to property taxes, Davis said.

If elected in November, Davis has a proposal to change the direction of recent income tax cuts and "get us out of the mess we're in right now."

Davis will begin by freezing income tax rates.

"We just can't go any further than where we're at. It puts us in a huge deficit," he said of the income tax cuts. "The Legislative Research Department, which is non-partisan (and) we've always been able to rely on their data, have projected we will be facing a deficit of well over $1 billion over the next five years if we proceed down this road. Clearly that affects everything that state government touches."

As the economy grows and revenues improve, he wants to improve school funding before making income tax cuts.

If elected Davis will convene a tax commission to look at the tax code, specifically the provisions designed to create and stimulate jobs, and find out if that's working. If they aren't working, he will get rid of them.

"As a fellow elected official, the city and the county -- as well as the school district -- have really suffered the last few years," said Hays Mayor Henry Schwaller IV.

Schwaller also is serving as chairman of the Ellis County Team Davis campaign and accompanied Davis on Sunday.

"We've seen cuts not only through K-12, but higher education (and) the arts," Schwaller said. "Our transportation funding from the state has been changed and altered and cut. Property taxes are going up in the school and the county, not in the city. We have to have a change. This is not working."

"People in local units of government school board, city-county are just sick of being on the receiving end of these policies that have been coming out of Topeka these past years that are really making their jobs more difficult," Davis said.

"We also don't have the partnerships and the working arrangements in Topeka that we used to have -- working well with department of ag and water resources," Schwaller said. "It's critical to our state's future and our competitiveness that we have a change in Topeka."

Off the campaign trail, Davis is the cook in the family and spends time with his wife and daughter.

At 4 years old, Caroline already knows about her father's campaign.

Recently when picking her up at her preschool, Davis said she told him, "Dad, Sarah (her preschool teacher) is a Republican, but she's going to vote for you."

Caroline is "4 years old, and she's already figured out bipartisanship," Davis said with a smile.