The Republican, Democratic and Libertarian party nominees and two independent candidates for Kansas governor are enthusiastic about reviving investment in highway infrastructure but are all over the map in terms of cuts to state spending.
In addition to restoring financing to the Kansas Department of Transportation, which Govs. Jeff Colyer and Sam Brownback drained of $2 billion when state tax revenue tumbled, a majority of 2018 gubernatorial candidates emphasized the need to reasonably fund K-12 public education.
Republican nominee Kris Kobach vowed to seek completion of projects included in the T-Works transportation program and compel the Legislature to “stop robbing the highway fund,” while Democrat Laura Kelly said she would reshape the budget to emphasize health care, roads and schools.
“As a result of the Brownback experiment, we’ve seen bigger class sizes and teachers fleeing the state. That is unacceptable,” said Kelly, a state senator from Topeka. “And as governor, I will fully fund our K-12 schools and invest in early childhood education so our students are ready for the jobs of the future.”
Independent Greg Orman would dedicate more state funding to career or technical education offerings statewide. Independent Rick Kloos singled out the need to upgrade the state’s response to damaging wildfires. Libertarian Jeff Caldwell said expansion of community mental health services had to be a priority.
“Three areas of state government requiring immediate investment are mental health, the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and KDOT,” Caldwell said.
The gubernatorial aspirants on the Nov. 6 ballot offered an array of ideas for limiting or altering expenditures in response to questions submitted to candidates by The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Kobach, a Lecompton resident and the Kansas secretary of state, said the state budget could be trimmed through employee attrition. About 11,000 baby boomers retire each day in the United States, he said, and when retirements occur in state government some of those workers shouldn’t be replaced.
Kobach said illegal immigrants ought to be prevented from receiving state government benefits. The Kansas law allowing some children of undocumented migrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges must be repealed, he said.
Kansas will be justified in pulling the plug on “no-bid” state contracts, Kelly said. The Brownback and Colyer administrations entered into a large number of contracts without transparent public bidding.
“This is an inefficient, not to mention corrupt, way to manage state business,” Kelly said. “We must use a competitive bidding process, unless it is an emergency, to help save tax dollars.”
In a dig against Kobach, the Democratic senator said taxpayers should no longer pay penalties when a state official was guilty of abusing his or her position. Kobach was found in contempt by a federal judge and used a state credit card to pay the fine.
Orman, a Johnson County businessman, said Kansas needed to halt an expensive battle with Missouri for job bragging rights. Both states run tax-break programs exploited by businesses that qualify by moving offices a few blocks east or west.
“We should end the border war with Missouri. We should institute a ‘no-fly zone’ that extends 40 miles around downtown Kansas City,” Orman said. “Under this agreement, we would not to recruit companies to move from the Missouri no-fly zone to the Kansas no-fly zone, assuming Missouri agrees to do the same.”
He said Kansas should make recreational use of marijuana an offense equal to a traffic violation. In addition, the state’s $3 billion Medicaid system should aggressively negotiate prescription drug prices for the system’s 400,000 participants.
“We shouldn’t pay $10 a pill when Canada is paying $2 a pill for a drug,” Orman said.
Caldwell, the Libertarian nominee, said he would cut operational expenditures at the Department of Corrections by pardoning people convicted of nonviolent marijuana offenses. He said it could save $20 million annually.
He proposed selling the Cedar Crest governor’s mansion. The state barbering and cosmetology boards can be eliminated, he said, because people working in those fields don’t need licenses.
Kloos, an independent candidate from Berryton, said he was generally satisfied with the state’s approach to budgeting but would authorize more audits of spending by independent reviewers.