Question: Cutting taxes / spending
Jeff: You have all said in your campaigns that you would like to cut taxes in some form, either income, property, or sales-tax. There was a $700 million budget shortfall with Brownback. Given that education, health, and transportation make up the mass majority of spending, where will you cover the tax cuts?
Senator Laura Kelly: I led the bipartisan effort last year to repeal the Brownback tax experiment. We put ourselves back on the road to recovery. We have had 16 months of revenue exceeding estimates. We have a cushion in the bank account and we can go back into the legislature next session and find the essentials of government, particularly our schools, we need to add a little money to that.
The money is in the bank and we will do that. We will focus on the priorities of the state and bring back the things that made Kansas what it was, and also allow for economic development, funding the schools and transportation and other infrastructure projects. We will expand Medicaid.
Greg Orman: The reality is, where we are now, after we meet the Supreme Court's mandate on education, we will not have much left over to do anything. I would love to be able to stand here and tell you I will also cut taxes, but the reality is, if we want to invest in our priorities and grow the Kansas economy and create jobs and opportunities, we will have to have a stable tax policy. I am the only candidate who has ever really created meaningful jobs. I have created them here in Kansas. I want to focus on growing the Kansas economy. I have a detailed plan for that on my website. I want to make government more efficient so we can invest in priorities without raising taxes. I do believe we will get to the point will we will start to see some relief in the area of sales tax in food and property tax, but it is going to take a while.
Secretary Kris Kobach: Laura Kelly, in nine years, has voted for four different tax hikes. She has never met a tax hike she does not like. For her to claim she will consider cutting taxes in the future is laughable. I have shown we have the room to cut taxes if you use natural attrition. As baby boomers retire, 11,000 a day, you can allow people to leave government and not fill all the positions. That is how I shrunk my agency by 18%. People are being taxed out of their homes. People are finding that property taxes are going up. The appraiser is raising the value 25%. We have to look out for the Kansas taxpayer.
Senator Laura Kelly: I am actually the only one standing on the stage tonight who understands the Kansas budget. I have been the ranking minority member for 14 years and I have an intimate knowledge of the budget. The budget at this point is stable enough and leaning toward greater stability that we will be able to fund education and restore funding to programs like foster care without raising taxes.
Greg Orman: That would be great if that was all she was talking about spending money on. I think Secretary Kobach's idea of doing this through attrition is lazy. We have to look at the state government and find out which programs are working and not working. We have to do what we would do in the private sector, which is invest in the things that work and eliminate the things that don't.
Secretary Kris Kobach: I will be doing much more than cutting government through natural attrition. I would also look at wasteful expenditures and programs. A study was done that gave 75 recommendations to the legislature about how they can save money. They have implemented fewer than 25. I would take those recommendations and implement them to cut spending and government. Kansas cannot afford it. For Laura Kelly to say we will increase these programs and maybe look at a tax cut is ridiculous.
Question: DCF Reform
Jessica: There have been many criticisms about the DCF. The murder of a three-year-old is one case. Multiple reports were made to DCF in the months before the little boy's body was found in concrete. DCF has missed more than half of its standards for child welfare. They have made reforms, including appointing a new secretary.
Question: Do you think reforms of DCF have gone far enough, and if not, what would you like to see specifically change to change the way the department is operating?
Greg Orman: DCF is an embarrassment and anyone who has been involved with this has to be concerned. We have lost 75 kids in foster care. We have a record number of kids being taken by DCF and at the same time we are leaving kids like Evan Brewer, who should have been taken out of the home, in the home. This is what happens when you have partisan governors. You end up appointing partisan agency heads. I do not need to pick my appointments from a group of politically loyal Democrats or Republicans. I can pick the best and brightest to serve Kansas and that is what we will do with DCF. We also have to put citizen advocates in place. I cannot think of anything worse than having your children taken away from you and having no redress. We have to put out an accountability plan.
Secretary Kris Kobach: The changes in the DCF have not gone far enough and we would overhaul the agency. 70% of prisoners in the prison system were in foster care at one point. 75 children were lost from the system. In most cases, the people were foster children who ran away and did not check in and tell the government where they were going. Most of them were teenage girls. There is a high risk that some of them might have fallen into sex trafficking. This is a big problem. One of the solutions will be this: Many of the kids feel there is no one they can call at the DCF agency to answer their questions. They are passed from committee to committee. When I am governor, each foster child will have one person stay with him or her throughout their childhood. Whenever there is a problem, they can call that person and know that there is someone looking out for them. We need to look at that at a human level.
Senator Laura Kelly: I am the one that blew the whistle on DCF and them losing children in the foster care system. I was on a child welfare task force and uncovered that fact and let it be know publicly it was there and that is the reason we have a new secretary of DCF. That agency has been decimated by the Brownback tax experiment. They do not have social workers at the front end to do family preservation and to keep kids. We do not have social workers at the back end to do reintegration, either into the biological home or an adoptive home. We have to give them the resources that they need to take care of our kids. I will treat this issue as the emergency that it is. This is a life and death issue as we’ve seen.
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