- Fifth Generation Kansas Farmer & Rancher with my wife and three young children
- Bachelor of Science from Kansas State University
- Served 8 years as County Commissioner
- Served 9 years on Wallace County Republican Central Committee, current Chairman
- Served 2 terms as president of Kansas Legislative Policy Group
Married to Christine and we have three young children: Austin is 8, Kaitlyn is 6, and Allison is 4. We are the third generation to own and operate the family farm in Weskan.
What is your plan to deal with the Kansas Budget?
First and foremost, we will very likely be facing a shortfall in the FY2017 budget, which began July 1, 2016 and runs until May 31, 2017... with the only question being "How much?" Unfortunately, the money will have to be found just to get Kansas into FY2018 in the black. Even more unfortunately, this will likely have to come from delayed payments or sweeps from other funds, because we have simply ran out of areas from which to cut any significant amount of money without severely affected operations. Delayed payments, like those to KPERS, will NOT deal with the problem... they just kick the proverbial can down the road. Speaking of roads, we must also stop balancing the budget on the back of KDOT. With continued transfers from transportation, KDOT is in survival mode for our roads and bridges - focusing their efforts on preservation and repair and turning away from the modernization projects almost entirely. That's why a recent report stated Kansas has some of the best roads in the nation. But this is similar to putting a fresh band-aid on a wound and then exclaiming the band aid is in great shape! Modernization projects are necessary in our state to keep up with the increasing traffic and demands on Kansas roads. The impact of delaying these projects will not show up immediately, but years from now when they do, I would speculate the cost of repair is going to be MUCH higher to Kansas!
"Dealing" with the budget for FY2018-2019 (Kansas operates on a biennial budget) starts first with revenue. First of all, legislators need accurate revenue estimates from which to build the budget. The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group has struggling to accurately predict state revenues for several years. Regardless of what is to blame for that, it NEEDS to be accurate or the state will continue to have shortfalls throughout the year. On the expense side, the budget is a moving target. The elephant in the state is the Supreme Court ruling on the adequacy portion of the school finance. No one knows what that will be, and since education consumes the lion's share of the state general fund budget, any significant changes will have a dramatic affect on the overall budget.
In the end, just like your household budget, we have to make sure we are getting the best value for our dollar. We've got to have revenue that supports our lifestyle. If we don't have enough revenue, we need to either change our lifestyle or find a way to increase revenue. Typically, it's never one or the other, but rather a combination of both.
What kind of changes do you support in rewriting the school funding formula? Do you support additional funding for Kansas schools?
I thought scrapping the old finance formula was a tremendous mistake. It was not a complete disaster, it just needed some fine-tuning. It was replaced with a short-term block grant system that doesn't allow for any growth in schools. The block grant method is expiring and the legislature must develop a new school finance formula to have in place July 1, 2017. Guess what? That new formula isn't going to be perfect, either! It will need changes made to it each year to ensure that is adjusts as Kansas schools grow and change. Many people complained that the formula was complex and confusing - but I don't believe any formula can be simple because of the diversity from district to district and from year to year. As the KSDE Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis says, "what works in Wichita doesn't work in Weskan" because the needs of the district are so different. Also, as the education landscape changes from year to ye ar, I would also say that what works for Wichita today doesn't necessarily work for Wichita 5 or 10 years from now. That's why we need a funding formula that can adapt and change.
Regarding the level of funding, I believe we need to look at this from a different angle. No one is arguing that education is important, but some believe we are paying way too much. Instead of complaining about the cost and cutting the funding, we need to be asking why it is costs so much. What can the state do to make it more affordable to provide our children with quality education? Fewer regulations and requirements, perhaps? How many times are schools forced to provide services or comply with regulations that are simply not feasible? I believe allowing schools more freedom to control their costs and make decisions for the education of their students is a much more efficient way to address school funding than mandates and policies dictated by state and federal government.
What is your number one priority for the upcoming legislative session and how do you plan to address it?
We need to begin taking steps to stabilize Kansas!
From revenue estimates to school finance to taxation to roads and everything in between, we must stop this cycle of volatility and stabilize our economy. Unpredictability creates uncertainty, and that is why the Kansas economy is not responding. Commodity prices and oil prices are lower than they have been in years, which is not helping our state, but business and the commercial industry is also extremely hesitant because of the chaos in tax code. After two years of trying to get it passed in the legislature, and many candidates running on the "LLC loophole" platform, business owners know their tax-free days are numbered. That will curb any large investments and development. Contractors are not growing their businesses with the current state of transportation funding. Education, healthcare, and many other areas are being very cautious because of their skepticism of our state government. That affects everyone from your local hospital to your grocery store, and it's hurting the economy.
Kansans need predictable, steady taxes that are fair and equal to everyone. This will create an accurate, balanced revenue stream to fund state programs and services and ultimately stabilize our economy.WEBSITE | Smith for Kansas
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