Kansas House candidates debate taxes, government’s role
About 70 people listened to the Kansas 10th District House candidates answer questions Oct. 12 at Baker University.
Incumbent Democrat Tony Brown and challenger TerriLois Gregory, a Republican, discussed taxes, education funding, improving the economy and other issues during a forum sponsored by the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce.
Both candidates said they oppose high taxes several times during the forum. However, the subject of taxes came up several times during the hour-long event.
“I think people forget that politicians pay taxes, too,” Brown said. “People accused me of wanting to raise taxes once I got to Topeka. Voting for the 1-cent sales tax was probably the single-most difficult personal decision I’ve ever made in my life, because I knew what it did to the people of Kansas. I oppose excessive taxes. I don’t think you’ll get a whole lot of controversy about that. The question is where is the balance. We have turned tax into a four-letter word. We can’t even talk about it.”
Gregory said she believed the government should play less of a role in Kansan’s lives.
“I believe less government is better,” Gregory said. “There is a basic level of government that I am willing to fund. I think we do agree on the issue that people want more services, which they will fund with more taxes, or they are going to be willing to live with less services and lower taxes. We won’t receive more services for less taxes, but we have to keep the government out of people’s lives.”
Another hot topic was government mandated health insurance. The candidates were asked if they would support legislation to exempt Kansans from the federal requirement to buy health insurance?
“I would not only support that legislation, I would protect you from federal mandates,” Gregory said. “I would support the right for Kansas citizens to choose for themselves on the ballot this fall how they want to handle this issue. This is the very reason that we have the 10th amendment. One person and one state can make a difference. We are having our personal freedoms removed from us. It’s time to lock and load ‘em and fight back.”
Brown said it would not be wise for Kansas to spend money fighting the issue because it would be decided on the federal level.
“This issue is working its way through the federal court, and it’s going to be decided at the federal level,” Brown said. “If it is deemed to be constitutional, it applies to all of the states. It’s not a situation where we can opt out or any other can opt out. I have personal questions about this legislation, but I don’t think it’s prudent for Kansas to spend our valuable resources to do something that makes us feel like we are thumbing our nose at Washington.”
The two candidates were also asked what their top two priorities would be should they win the Nov. 2 election.
“I think the primary focus we should have in Topeka is adequate funding for education,” Brown said. “The other priority is we’ve got to get out of the three anchors of state economy that we’ve been relying on for a long time. Those would be agriculture, oil and gas and aerospace. We’ve got to have more money in the pot.”
Brown said opportunities for growth existed in high-tech industries, especially in the biosciences and animal-health industries.
Gregory agreed there are opportunities for job growth in wind energy and the planned intermodal transportation hub near Edgerton. However, her priorities are different from her opponent’s, she said.
“My top priorities would be to quit spending money we don’t have and to implement efficiencies,” Gregory said. “We need to implement standard accounting for all agencies, not just schools, so that taxpayers can see where their money is being spent.”
After answering 10 questions about popular topics, the candidates gave their closing remarks.
“We are at a crossroad here in Kansas,” Brown said. “Are we going to be a state that funds education and provides services to our elderly and people in need? Or during these tough economically times, are we going to cut taxes as much as possible and live in a state that just gets by?”
Gregory responded with her closing remarks.
“You’ve heard we have to increase our taxes or cut our services, but there is another option,” Gregory said. “We can implement efficiencies, and we can cut wasteful spending.”
The 10th District includes Baldwin City, Wellsville, north Ottawa and south Lawrence.