Kansas legislators have referenced the cooperation between Democrats and Republicans during the 2018 legislative session. The past two years they’ve worked together to fix the Kansas budget crisis after eight years of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax experiment.
Two candidates are competing this general election for the open seat in the Legislature’s House of Representatives 110th District.
The district includes the counties of Norton, Phillips and Rooks; Hill City and a small slice of Graham County; and a portion of rural Ellis County, as well as Ellis and Catharine.
Stockton Mayor Kim Thomas, Democrat, is running against incumbent Republican candidate Ken Rahjes.
Among the pressing issues next session, legislators face the fallout from Brownback’s tax plan, which cut both services and revenues, then patched the severe shortfall by taking highway and state pension money.
That, in turn, cut local funding and drove up property taxes, according to studies by the nonpartisan Kansas Center for Economic Growth, Topeka.
One key issue now is expanding Medicaid, which the Legislature voted for but which Brownback vetoed and which Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach also rejects. Medicaid serves 425,000 people in Kansas, but another 150,000 would be included with expansion.
Rejecting Medicaid expansion has cost Kansas an estimated $2.9 billion in federal money to reimburse rural hospitals and health care providers serving poor people.
Legislators from both parties also plan to tackle the acknowledged KanCare calamity. KanCare is Brownback’s program that has tried unsuccessfully to use private companies to administer Medicaid.
For their views of these issues, Thomas and Rahjes answered questions from The Hays Daily News. Thomas’ answers are below. Rahjes answers will publish Sunday.
Tell us about your background, where you live, your family, where you’ve worked and what qualifies you as a good candidate.
I'm a fifth-generation Kansan of historic Nicodemus. I have served as mayor of Stockton for 16 years. I have served on the board of directors for the Kansas Mayors Association, Kansas Municipal Electric Association, Kansas Municipalities Utility, State Hospital Auxiliary, and president of the Kansas League of Municipalities. I was raised in Plainville. I live in Stockton and have one son and his wife and nine grandchildren. I retired from AT&T and Southwestern Bell Telephone after 32 years.
My qualifications for candidate: My experience with being a local leader. Being involved in the League and working with people from all over the state. I have been an advocate for the people of Western Kansas for years.
Would you fix the privately managed KanCare program, and, if so, how?
KanCare program is not working. It needs to be looked at, and some changes made. Improvements would save more lives.
Many rural hospitals are in danger of closing. Would you vote to expand Medicaid to increase revenue to Kansas hospitals and to offer insurance coverage to many Kansans who are currently without? If you don’t favor Medicaid expansion, what do you suggest for Kansans who can’t afford quality healthcare?
Medicaid expansion is very important. In the 110th, there are five hospitals. The economical effect on communities if one hospital was lost, would be devastating to a community. We have lost over $2 billion by not participating in the program, when 90 percent of the cost is funded by the federal government. Expansion has saved money for states.
Should immigrants working in Kansas be allowed citizenship. What process do you advocate to either aid or prevent that?
If they go through the process of paperwork needed for citizenship.
Do you favor replenishing KDOT for money diverted during the Brownback administration, and ensuring KPERS is fully funded? If so, how?
I'm in favor of replenishing KDOT and making sure KPERS is fully funded.
Do you support a reduction or removal of the state sales tax on food? Please explain why or why not.
I support the removal of state sales tax on food. This would help all Kansans.