We need to make our tax policies fair.
The tax policies adopted by Gov. Brownback and Republican legislators in 2012 and 2013 are unfair and unwise. I voted against these changes and continue to oppose them. These policies have undermined the Kansas economy and put the state in debt. They favor the wealthy and punish everyone else. Taxes should be fair. All Kansans should pay tax based on their incomes. Instead, employees are required to pay income taxes while the profit made by business owners is exempt. Business losses should be allowed to be deducted. We should remove the sales tax from food, or at the very least restore the full food sales tax rebate. We should restore deductions for property taxes, medical expenses and the homestead exemption for renters.
We must balance the state budget.
Even if changes are made to tax policy in the next legislative session, additional revenue might not be collected before 2019. The state has a revenue shortfall that will extend into the next fiscal year, and all our reserves have been spent. Next year’s budget already assumes that $6.5 million in efficiencies suggested by the efficiency review will be found. Making cuts while protecting the core responsibilities of government will not be easy, but we need to do it without shifting costs to local property taxes or increasing the burden on state employees. We should consider eliminating or delaying programs such as the scholarship tax credits, community service tax credits, and the rural opportunity zones. We should stop funding lawsuits we are unlikely to win and question special legislative projects such as stem cell research. We should use our state tax dollars more efficiently by expanding the KanCare program with federal dollars. That would not only help people, but it would also increase funding available for our local hospitals and community mental health centers.
We need to adequately fund education.
The Legislature has a Constitutional and moral responsibility to adequately and equitably fund Kansas schools so that all children have the opportunity to succeed. Local school boards, school superintendents, and teachers must be able to count on the funding they need to do their jobs. When classrooms are overcrowded, good teachers struggle to do their job to help all students. When the Legislature eliminates due process and borrows from the pension fund, school districts have trouble recruiting and retaining good teachers. Funding should be available for music and art as well as reading, math, and science. We need to expand the children’s initiative fund to support early childhood education. We need to fund vocational and technical education as well as support our colleges and universities.
We should treat all people with respect.
Government has a special responsibility to honor religious freedom. However, the practice of an individual’s religious freedom should not mean that government condones allowing people to carve out a special class of their neighbors to discriminate against. Allowing public agencies or businesses to limit their services based on sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong, both morally and legally. One of the roles of government is to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity. I support adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kansas anti-discrimination statutes.
Every citizen has the right to vote.
Our government must provide for fair elections and full participation in those elections. Voting is our most basic right. With so little evidence of voter fraud, I believe we should replace the requirement for proof of citizenship with an affirmation. If we continue the requirement for photo ID, the government should provide them free of charge.