Residents gathered Saturday morning at the Ellis County Administration Building for an opportunity to ask questions of state legislators during the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Coffee.
Previously known as “Eggs and Issues,” the forum brings a few changes this year, including participation of Rep. Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, who joined Rep. Sue Boldra, R-Hays, and Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell.
Those in attendance wrote down questions they wanted addressed by the legislatures, and Tammy Wellbrock, the Chamber’s executive director, presented the questions.
“These forums are the intent to try to bridge community members with those in the position to make decisions on our behalf,” Wellbrock said as she welcomed the crowd.
One of the first topics addressed focused on the use of $400 million of KDOT bonding for government expenses.
“I’m not so sure we’re handling this right,” Ostmeyer said. “What scares me, is when the federal government cuts back on KDOT’s money they send out, or education money, we’re really in trouble then, because we get a lot of money from federal government.”
Participants additionally questioned if the legislatures favored reinstating a tax on businesses to raise revenue streams.
“I will never stand up here as a senator or as a legislator and say, ‘Let’s go after businesses. They’re making too damn much money,’ ” Ostmeyer said. “We’ve got to take care of our businesses.”
Ostmeyer went on to say Kansans should take care of what they have, and understand what businesses go through.
Medicaid expansion issues also were addressed, and Rahjes said he was acutely aware of the importance of rural healthcare.
“We need to find the right funding,” he said. “I don’t know if we found the right answer. This may be the easy answer.”
Boldra said she thought she knew where she stood on the matter, but wasn’t sure anymore.
“I really want to hear a discussion of both sides; we hear one side or the other screaming, and I’m not sure,” she said. “I’m concerned about the budget. That has to be a concern as we have watched this the last several years. But, I am also very concerned about caring for our most needy people in Kansas.”
Questions regarding school consolidation, bond approval, finance and House Bill No. 2504 additionally were asked.
“I don’t think any one of us is going to vote in favor of HB 2504 and I do not think it will ever be debated on the floor — I don’t think it’s going to make it that far,” Boldra said.
Ostmeyer said he did not support anything to do with the consolidation.
“We’ve got to really be careful when we look into things like this,” he said. “I think they’ve opened up a can of worms here.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t think they have enough hours in the day to pass that because I know there will be a lot of rural insiders that are going to fight that.”
Also touched upon were issues including lesbian and gay rights, conceal and carry, and the future of the district.
As the forum concluded, Ostmeyer and Boldra were asked if they were running again in 2016. Boldra said she already filed, and Ostmeyer, who has served 16 years, said he was undecided, with much of the reason due to his daughter’s cancer diagnosis.
“If I decide to run, I will win. I know my district,” he said. “But right now, I want to ask you to let me take care of my family and find out where I’m at.
“If I serve, I will serve it fully. If I don’t, I will make an announcement and we’ll move on.”