By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT
A candidate for state lieutenant governor emphasized investing in Kansas during a visit Sunday at Hays Arts Council.
Jill Docking, a Wichita financial planner, is on the ticket with gubernatorial challenger Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, minority leader of the Kansas House of Representatives. Docking spoke to approximately 50 attendees and criticized Gov. Sam Brownback for his approaches toward taxes and higher education funding.
The governor's "experiment" with the state's tax code is a "terrible gamble" because reducing income taxes shifts the burden to local sources, she said. Property taxes are up in 75 percent of Kansas counties, sales taxes have increased $777 million and job creation is stagnant, she said.
"Some of the very wealthiest Kansans are no longer paying income tax in Kansas," Docking said. "And the thought of the governor was that this would stimulate job growth, enough job growth to make up for the great big deficit that's going to be caused as a result of this income tax change."
Docking, a former Kansas Board of Regents member, attacked Brownback for eliminating $66 million from higher education in the two-year budget period. The cuts threaten institutions' ability to maintain quality faculty and attract students, she said.
The consequences demonstrate Kansas needs a bipartisan budget with priorities that balance a pro-business agenda with investments in the state. Prior to 2010, the governors' shared leadership styles.
"I believe the way Kansas has been governed best over that period of time is to have Democrats and Republicans working together on progressing our state and moving it forward," she said.
Docking said Davis voted against a recent bill in the state Legislature that would have granted business owners the right to refuse service to anyone they believed belonged to the gay community.
"I think you can have a difference of opinion in Kansas on gay marriage," she said.
"What I don't think you will have a difference of opinion on -- the majority of Kansans are appalled by discrimination, and that's what that bill was."
Anthony Glassman, Ellis County Democratic chairman, attended the program and said the state Legislature needs better guidance.
"We definitely need a strong governor to guide us into the future," Glassman said. "It's definitely not Brownback, and he's proven that."
Hays City Commissioner Eber Phelps helped host the event. The commissioner represented District 111 from 1997 to 2012 before he and several officeholders lost their positions to Brownback-supported Republicans.
Phelps, who served on the education committees for multiple years, said he was concerned about the state's focus on the issue.
"Now we're seeing these funding cuts and so forth, and to me, our best return on our investment is putting that money in education," he said.
Trace Waugh, a Fort Hays State University freshman from Goodland, said she attended because she wanted to learn what the Davis-Docket ticket could do for Kansas.
"I want better education," Waugh said. "Making education much more accessible and education a priority."
Brenda Meder, executive director of Hays Arts Council, said the program's hosts approached her about using the building for the event. Hays Community Theatre and Western Plains Animal Refuge are other groups that have used the facility.
"It's always good to have different people utilizing your space for different reasons when you are a part of the community, and that's where you come from," Meder said.
Phelps hosted the event along with Janis Lee, Glenn Staab and Vice Mayor Henry Schwaller IV.