The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 27, 1996 · Page 46
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 46

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, October 27, 1996
Page 46
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B SUNDAY. OCTOBER 27, 1996 VOTE '96 THE SALINA JOURNAL KANSAS SENATE • 24th DISTRICT TACKLING A GIANT KANSAS HOUSE </ 67th DISTRICT WORLDS APART White battles four-term senator Vidricksen Kejr, Matthews on opposite ends of spectrum Incumbent says his experience gives him clout region needs By GORDON D. FIEDLER JR. T7ie Salina Journal ,. , ; v- ,\ emocrat Allan White readi- •<* ,, i,ly admits his opponent in ^- the race to represent the J-, j . people of the 24th Senate >, v 1- - District is formidable. His opponent, Republican Ben Vidricksen, a retired Salina restaurateur and food-service operator, has served in the Senate since 1979 and is seeking his fifth term. As a Democrat in Kansas, White says he is outnumbered and predicts his campaign will be outspent five to 10 to one. Still, he is motivated to run because he says he's uncomfortable with the direction the state is headed and believes he knows a better way. A top concern is education. "People get tired of hearing about it, and that's regrettable," White said. "It should be made a priority and it hasn't been." White would like to see more cooperative efforts among the state's diverse districts, possibly with assistance from the state's universities. "Every school should have an equal opportunity to utilize the technology that is out there," he said. "We haven't taken full advantage of that." Connecting to the Internet is one example, White said. Schools could electronically tap into the wealth of knowledge contained in universities. • "They can provide sophisticated course offerings to remote areas of the state." White is proud of the school activities improvement legislation he helped co-sponsor as a House member that enabled smaller districts to finance facilities improvements. Another issue high on his legislative to-do list is continuing his quest for tax fairness. Those efforts didn't go far enough five years ago. "One tax we didn't address burned me up. Single taxpayers are getting ripped off," White said. "Tax rates for singles are ridiculous compared to joint taxpayers. (Singles) don't have the numbers, they don't have big lobbyists who take senators out to lunch." White also accused his opponent of cozying up to special interests. "He's given tax break after tax break to special interests," White charged. He mentioned the repeal of the sales tax on building construction. All interests special Vidricksen defended his record, saying his definition of "special interests" is anybody who talks to him about anything and called the sales tax on new construction a"stupid idea." "It was a bad tax," Vidricksen said. "We did right by repealing it." Vidricksen sees the Senate race as one of experience vs. inexperience. "I have experience. He has none. He's never chaired a committee. I'll be the senior Republican senator," which, he said, means legislative clout. Funding education and the budget are at the top of Vidricksen's list of concerns. The budget is always a big issue, he said, with education taking about 52 percent of the state's general fund. "I'd like to see some property tax relief. I don't think property tax is the best way to fund education." The question facing the next Legislature will be how to generate the necessary funds. The present 35-mill levy to finance education raises about $500 million he said. A one-cent sales tax would generate $300 million. "Raising income tax too much, you end up losing citizens," he said. If re-elected, Vidricksen hopes to generate enthusiasm for another comprehensive highway program. "The present program runs out this year. We'll have no money for any system enhancements. That's one of the reasons I'm running." A new highway program, he I hopes, would provide enough money to finish widening the remaining 22 miles of U.S. 81 in north-central Kansas. Events of the Day ^Salina Journal BEN VIDRICKSEN Republican • AGE: 69 • ADDRESS: 1427 W. Republic • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: State senator from 1979 to present, serving in leadership position ALLAN WHITE Democrat • AGE: 46 • ADDRESS: 112 W. Neal Court • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Served in Kansas House from 1991-92. PRIORITIES — As a member of the Legislature, what would be your two top priorities? My expertise is in highways and tourism promotion, along with economic development. I would like to see fairness in school funding for large and small districts and feel that equal education opportunities must be provided to our students. Governmental ethics reform in Kansas is a must.The list of reforms includes but is not limited to campaign finance, lobbying laws, gifts and meals for elected officials, term limits, and campaign spending PROPERTY TAXES — Does Kansas need a property tax? If you would abolish the property tax, how would you replace the source of funding? Property taxes are needed, mostly by local units of government. To replace property taxes is a question that has been around a long time. Funds would have to come from many sources, not just sales and income taxes. We could take a look at a small tax on the 40 exemptions. Kansas needs a property tax to fund local government. Certainly, there needs to be options such as the sales tax to provide property tax relief when possible. The property tax in Kansas will probably not be abolished but will be augmented by other funding sources. The income tax is probably the most likely source. VOUCHERS — Are government-funded school vouchers a good idea? As long as it did not harm the public school system or its funding, vouchers could be possible. The question voters need to ask themselves is: Would I like to see my tax money going to the Branch Davidian school like the one David Koresh had in his Waco compound? I think tax money going to private schools is a dangerous idea. Once the door is thrown open to one private school, the door is also open to others, some of which we would not approve of. ABORTION — What is the state's role in abortion? Should the Legislature work to restrict abortion? The abortion laws we have now could be amended somewhat — now an eight-hour wait, maybe longer. This is an annual question each year I've been there. There are a number of restrictions in place, such as a ban on third-trimester abortions (partial birth abortions included). For the most part, I support the restrictions in place and do not support efforts to change the law. I feel abortion is a moral, ethical issue much more than a government issue. Reproductive freedom is not specifically dealt with in the Constitution. HIGHWAYS — Can the state afford to spend more money to build and maintiain highways? Can it afford not to? We must continue some type of highway program. The current project runs out in 1997, and many projects need to be finished. I have a plan I will present to the next Legislature. It will not be as large as before but sufficient for new construction. First of all, the state must remain competitive with other states with regard to fuel taxes/That is why the state needs to look at other options for funding for highways. If elected, I will request a study into the creation of what I call "highway benefit zones." A highway benefit zone would include businesses that are within one-half mile of major highways that receive at least 20 percent of their business as a result of their location. One cent of the 4.9-cent state sales tax would be placed in a "Kansas Highway Improvement Project Fund." There would be no tax increase. Source: Candidate questionnaires. Some answers were edited for length. JOE KEJR Republican • AGE: 37 • ADDRESS: 10143 W. Stimmel Road • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Seeking third term for the 67th District seat LARRY MATHEWS Democrat • AGE: 62 • ADDRESS: 512 E. Shipton Road • POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Completing third term on Salina School Board PRIORITIES —As a member of the Legislature, what would be your two top priorities? 1. Fair, adequate and reliable funding for public education. 2. Helping counter extreme positions by the conservative right on budget cuts, school issues and other measures. Cutting property tax is the No. 1 issue so that families aren't run out of their homes because they can't afford the taxes. Controlling spending and waste in state government. Keeping your hard-earned money to take care of your family, not working through May just to pay taxes. It is time to get the government off the backs of the people of Kansas. PROPERTY TAXES — Does Kansas need a property tax? If you would abolish theproperty tax, how would you replace the source of funding? The state should work to get out of the property tax business. Tax revenues from other sources such as sales tax, income tax, corporate taxes, etc., will continue to grow as the economy increases. In fact, revenue growth is 6.9 percent over last year or $29 million more growth than was projected for this year. Unfortunately, Kansas does need a property tax. Reliance on it can and must be reduced, with sales and income taxes as the obvious alternatives. , But we must be careful because sales taxes are already high in comparison with surrounding states. Income taxes are the best reflection of ability to pay. VOUCHERS — Are government-funded school vouchers a good idea? Parents need to be, involved in their children's education, giving them the choice that they see is best for their children. The middle and upper class already choose where their children go by where they buy or build their home. It is the low income that cannot afford to send their kids to their choice of schools. I would study any option that would improve all children's education. No, they are a bad idea. They would take money from already under-funded public schools. Private and parochial schools would not have to operate under the same rules as public schools on accepting all who apply, on. facilities, on accountability, on program offerings, on government regulations or on students' special needs. ABORTION — What is the state's role in abortion? Should the Legislature work to restrict abortion? I am pro-life, I believe we need to protect the sanctity of life. The state's role should be limited. Abortion decisions should be between the woman, her family and her doctor, but with restrictions on late- term abortions. That basically is current Kansas law, which I would leave unchanged. HIGHWAYS — Can the state afford to spend more money to build and maintain highways? Can it afford not to? It isn't just a question of whether we can afford it. Good highways are the lifeblood of any state, and they must be maintained. We can't afford to let them deteriorate. We must keep our roads up-to-date. We need to finish U.S. 81 so that it is four lanes to the Nebraska line. Kansas has great potential for economic growth if we have a quality transportation system that can get our products to the rest of the world. How to fund this is going to take major brainstorming to figure out the best plan. Source: Candidate questionnaires. Some answers were edited for length. Candidates differ on school vouchers, prayer and breakfast By DAVID CLOUSTON The Salina Journal *&<t> Candidates for the 67th Dis- S-M "trict seat in the Kansas i^', House of Representatives V i; .share little common £' - ground on the issue of Kansas public school education. , But Joe Kejr and Larry Mathews agree it's one of the major is r sues of the campaign. Kejr, a Brookville farmer running for his third term, is a conservative Republican. Mathews, who describes himself as moderate, was a Republican until the Democrats approached him about opposing Kejr. Mathews has served nearly 12 years on the Salina School Board and is a retired writer and editor of the Salina Journal. Mathews thinks the conserva 1 tives' legislative agenda spells trouble for public education in the state. , He opposes conservative initiatives such as school vouchers', elimination of breakfast programs and sex education classes and imposing prayer in schools. But what's more important, in Mathew's view, is that the Legislature find a reliable funding base for public education. Kejr was among the legislators who voted in the last session to eliminate the 35-mill property tai levy for Kansas public schools, phasing it out and letting sustained economic growth take up the slack. Mathews doesn't think that growth alone would cover the loss of the $580 million the levy generates annually. , "I think that's totally irresponsible," Mathews said. Mathews supports a plan enj- dorsed by the Kansas Association of School Boards. The plan would raise the psr-pupil expenditure for school districts from less than $3,700 to $4,500. That would eliminate the need for local option budgets passed by three-quarters of the school districts, Mathews aid. Districts still could enact LOBs, but their taxpayers would have to fund the entire amount without state aid. Now, the state pays half or more of approved local option budgets. Kejr said he thinks Gov. Bill Graves and the Legislature will pass a property tax reduction package this year, perhaps cutting the mill levy for schools to 25 or 20 mills. "I know the chairman of the education committee is looking at the numbers to come up with more funding for special education," he said. "And that's probably one of the most challenging issues right there. The federal government doesn't fund a lot of the mandates that come down." Kejr also said he doesn't believe equal education for all Kansas students means equal spending for each student. The cost of education varies in different parts of the state, he said. Kejr and Mathews' stands oh other issues: • School breakfast: Mathews supports such programs, Kejr questions the expense. "When w£ start putting kids in school more and more and less time at home with the family, I think it becomes a detriment." ; • Initiative and Referendum: Issues could be put on the Kansas election ballot by petition. Both' candidates are opposed. Kejr sai4 he fears such a measure would re ( duce the Legislature's authority} Mathews said voters may not be fully informed on controversial is)^ sues: "They rely instead ?>n last} minute, often negative, sound bites. The Legislature is the best place for debating and passing ox- rejecting legislation." ; • Concealed Weapons: The soj called "concealed carry" bill is supported by Kejr, opposed by Mathews. Kejr thinks concealed weapons are more of a deterrent t$ crime because a criminal is less likely to approach a citizen not knowing if they have a weapdni Mathews thinks enforcement of $ permit system for concealed weapons would be a bureaucratic nightmare for law enforcement. • Expansion of gambling; Mos often applied to calls by race tracks to allow slot and other gam ing machines on their premises Both candidates oppose the expan sion of gambling in the state. ELECT ALLAN WHITE STATE SENATE DEMOCRAT - 24th DISTRICT Pol. Adv. Paid for by White for Senate Committee Carolee Miner, Treasurer Shirley Jacques, Chair GARY SWARTZENDRUBER For State Representative District 69 Pol Adv. Paid For By JfllU Helm, Chak - Loretta Baize, TVeas. 825-9126 For Current, Accurate $$5fa Weather Information ^1P i Salina Journal -.-!.. *.*"-.'

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