Solutions, not politics. That is my pledge to you.
Selecting someone to represent you is about trust. Trust that the person you select will seek out factual information, weigh all the variables and make the best decision. Trust to make the best decision on all issues vs. selecting someone who simply agrees with you on your favorite issue or makes decisions from some rigid, ideological position. My pledge to you is to be a trustworthy representative, who listens to constituents and in fact, seeks the best solutions, regardless of politics.
In the complex world in which we live, I believe I am safe in saying there has never been 100% agreement on any issue. I’m OK with that. One of my favorite thoughts is that, “No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.” Yet another reason to seek solutions. On all issues important to District 104, we should try to remember this idea and seek the best solution, not simply the one that you or I think is the only solution. With respectful, civil dialogue and accepting the fact that there are few if any perfect solutions, together we can make progress towards improvement. Sometimes in giant leaps. Sometimes in tiny steps. We owe it to those who follow us.
To give you some insight into how I think, below are some of my thoughts on various, current issues. Issues will come and go. Again, I encourage you to vote for someone you can trust to make the best decision, regardless of the issue. As your Representative, I will be willing to listen to all sides, seeking to find the best solutions towards progress. I hope you will join me in that empowering process. Click as indicated, to see more detailed thoughts on each issue.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Abraham Lincoln
Issue: Partisan politics have divided us to the point of political paralysis.
Position: Partisan politics may well be the most important issue we face. Frankly, I believe most of us are tired of these partisan politics that in the end, don’t get much done. No one party has all the right answers. I’ll work with everyone from both parties because I’m interest in solutions, NOT politics.
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Details: We know the above quotation from President Lincoln was made during the Civil War era out of his grave concern for the divided nation. While we don’t seem to be in civil war mode, I submit that we are politically divided to the point of name calling, distortion of facts and political paralysis. Empowering, respectful civil discourse seems increasingly absent. Frankly, the issue of partisan politics may well be the most important issue we currently face as it holds us all hostage from making positive, forward progress. This reason is why I pledge to seek solutions, not politics.
Am I being naive? I don’t think so. I believe today’s extreme positions, on the left and on the right, get all the headlines. However, I also believe there is a great expanse of common sense folks in the middle where solutions, not politics prevail.
To help with finding solutions, we need better government. A few of my thoughts: All votes, floor and committee, should be recorded and made part of the public record. Committee chairs should be elected by the committee. Leadership should not be able to suppress bills simply because they can. Every bill should contain a “plain English” summary. I support some form of term limits.
A two party system has served our country well as it has set the stage for debate of the most important issues of the time. High school debaters know the challenges and values of tempering an issue from both the affirmative and the negative. This process is a healthy one when conducted by civil, respectful, open-minded, transparent, truth seeking individuals…even if they don’t completely agree. The concept is perhaps best summed up by the picture below.
Improved Medicaid availability
Avoiding the death spiral of our health care system.
Issue: Way too many Kansans, thousands and thousands, do not have access to affordable health care.
Position: For almost ten years, partisan politics of the worst kind has kept Kansans from receiving our own federal tax money to help the underinsured and our hospitals. It is past time to get Kansas money into the hands of Kansans to assist with needed health care.
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Details: Until federal laws change, we must find ways for individuals and families, especially those in lower income brackets, to have more affordable care. Access to more affordable health-care has so many pluses. Improved Medicaid availability will help more people have access to healthcare and more healthcare providers to be reimbursed for their services. It is not THE solution, only a step forward. It is also not a final solution, cast in stone that cannot be amended in the future…of course it can!
While we have been mired in partisan politics, letting other states use our federal tax money, what I call the death spiral of medical expenses continues to pick up steam. As more folks become uninsured, the cost for those who are insured goes up due to un-recouped expenses by providers. In turn, even more folks become uninsured, which increases the costs, which in turn….and on, and on. This spiral cannot continue. We must find ways for most all consumers to be insured and have access to healthcare. Medicaid expansion is just one possibility.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Benjamin Franklin
Issue: Providing equitable and adequate school funding as required by the Kansas Constitution.
Position: We should view education as an investment, not an expense. We need to prepare all young people for success while being wise stewards of taxpayer funds.
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Details: I believe education is a primary driver of many good things we desire: less crime, less poverty, better health, more stable populations, economic development and much more… not to mention a brighter future for us all. Why do we put up such a fuss about investing in education? Even though it took intervention by the courts, education funding has again been set on the right track. Not only does this funding begin helping Kansas students to be better prepared, it also helps reduce demands on local property taxes.
While the “3 R’s” are still a foundational part of education, life has changed; families have changed; schools have changed; the world has changed. Accordingly, the educational process must change. This change requires continual investment in the basics, in human resources, in strategy development, technology, and more. I like what I read about the ‘Kansas Can’ initiative launched by the Kansas State Board of Education. I understand the mission is to create more effective Pre-K thru 12 learning. All that being said, we should expect efficiency from our educational systems with funds committed to mission critical operations. I also believe we need to keep the focus on classrooms and not be so tempted by the myriad of extra-curricular activities and excessive architectural design features.
The constant litigation in Kansas about education funding is frustrating and expensive. In part, it’s simply another symptom of the sickness and ineffectiveness of partisan politics. I do not believe a state constitutional amendment concerning who has ultimate power to determine educational spending, is a wise idea. Our government is balanced by the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. To upset that balance, especially on this important issue of education of our young people, seems ill-conceived.
But doesn’t the Kansas Constitution require a balanced budget?
Issue: The Kansas State Treasurer reports that Kansas has recently accumulated over $5 billion in debt. This is not acceptable.
Position: Balancing the states’ checkbook is as important as balancing our own. If we don’t stick to this fundamental, we only need look as far as our own federal government which at last check, has over $23 Trillion in accumulated debt.
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Details: Kansas has more than double the debt of all but one of the six nearby states. Nebraska is the lowest at only $38 million in debt. The same holds true on a per capita basis with Kansas showing $1,554 in per capita debt, more than twice that of any of the other nearby states. Nebraska is again lowest at only $20 per capita. It would be nice to think that Kansas debt was spent on tangible, capital improvements….roads, bridges, etc. While some of the debt was, many dollars were “re-directed” to fund short-term state operations.
It irritates me that past leadership has used what seems to be “sleight of hand” techniques to acquire spending money through debt. More specifically, issuing bonds through the Kansas Department of Transportation only to divert those borrowed funds to another use. In my former life as a lender in a financial institution, this action could have been considered fraudulent. If we absolutely need to borrow money, then let’s do so in a professional, above-board manner.
It is incumbent upon the legislature to focus on debt reduction. Just like in our households, that focus requires commitment, reducing expenses where possible, and increasing income when justified.
Pro business, pro-consumer and pro-taxpayer
Issue: Clearly, our economy has been changing, in large part due to impacts from advancing technology and global competition. Kansas economic impact and development must be top-of-mind for the Kansas legislature.
Position: Good government needs to proactively encourage and enable the can-do Kansas entrepreneurial spirit and private investment by maintaining a fair balance of pro-business, pro-consumer, and pro-taxpayer support
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Details: Kansas is still recovering from the recent business tax break fiasco. This fiasco is a prime example of the need for the Legislature to maintain a pro-business, pro-consumer and pro-tax-payer balance. Frankly, maintaining is probably not sufficient; we must be proactive and not wait until we have problems to solve. I believe we have to understand and address what data indicates has been and is happening in terms of wealth accumulation. An applicable quotation attributed to Thornton Wilder goes something like this: “Money is like manure. It’s no good unless it’s spread around.” The same logic is behind the reasons we have anti-trust laws which help to ensure fair competition in an open market economy. Forbes has published some troubling information about a relatively new index called the “U.S. Job Quality Index”. The resounding message is obvious in the graph below: it’s a trend we must begin to reverse and yes, right here in Kansas.
I am pleased that Governor Kelly is supporting the Rural Prosperity Initiative headed up by Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers. This initiative is all about economic development and Kansas has a vast amount of potential in this area. The initiative leverages our Kansas values, work ethic, independence and creativity. In addition, it seems to be an excellent ally to the contentious immigration issue. For the record, my grandfather legally came to Kansas as an immigrant. I think it turned out pretty well.
Although I don’t know the exact origin of the following quotation, I find it summarizes my thoughts about balance and economic development: “We all drink from wells we did not dig. We eat from fields we did not till. We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant. We profit from persons we have never known.”
These attributes are the things that weave us together as families, communities, states, nations and humanity. There is and must be, livable room for all in the world of economic development, creators and consumers alike, because….when we all do better, we all do better!
Judicial and prison reform
Let’s consider unlocking some positive potential through disciplined, incremental, well-thought out change.
Issue: The Kansas criminal justice system—jails, prisons and the court systems–are underfunded, overcrowded, and thus, under-performing.
Position: We must fund and maintain well-run courts and incarceration facilities. However, we also need to get ahead of problems by investing in solutions to the root causes of criminal behavior like addiction, mental illness, children without homes, educational drop-out rates, and livable wages.
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Details: We cannot continue to attempt to afford more and larger prison facilities. Yes, unfortunately, we need some prisons. However, incarceration should not be viewed as a cure-all for social ills. We must invest in improvements to root causes of criminal behavior instead of just trying to deal with the symptoms through incarceration.
Technology today affords excellent monitoring and reporting options without locking someone up. Combined with programmatic counseling and rehabilitation, I believe we should be keeping more individuals in their home, with their family and at their job instead of expecting rehabilitation to occur in the midst of disruption. We seem to be willing to afford these opportunities to even the most serious “white collar” criminals. Why not do the same for someone convicted of lower level, non-violent crimes?
Lastly, our court systems are also stressed and overloaded. The National Academy of Sciences states that 4% of those on death row are innocent, in part due to overloaded justice systems. Reaching the best solutions in any endeavor, including our justice system, requires investment in resources. A top-down study of our state justice system is needed to energize and modernize, with the end result being more efficient and effective outcomes.
Caring for the Needy
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Hubert Humphrey
Issue: Unfortunately, it appears we have gaping holes in our Kansas social services foundations, including mental healthcare, foster care, and basic health-care to name a few.
Position: Like education, these areas need to be looked at as investments that generate a positive return instead of trying to minimize expenditures, thereby creating more problems.
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Details: I really can’t say it better than Hubert Humphrey. Truth is, each one of us, if we’re lucky, will be included in at least two of those categories in our life. Only by grace, luck and perhaps good genes, do we avoid the other categories. However, there are some who seem to think that individuals should just “buck it up”- take responsibility, and make their life better. I’ll accept this belief in very limited quantity, but in general, I consider it wrong-headed thinking.
My personal belief is that we are all called to care for “the least among us”. Because “we” are the government, our government is also called. Unfortunately, it appears that key parts of our Kansas social services foundations are pretty much in shambles. Shame on us. I am not suggesting “throwing a bunch of money at it”. Kansans possess much in the way of critical, creative, practical problem-solving ability. Private sectors have already demonstrated they are more than willing to be a part of the solutions to assist needy populations. But, they should not be expected to shoulder the burden alone. Especially not just so more favorable tax treatment can be provided to a few. We’re all in this together.
“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Albert Einstein
Issue: The fear of guns, the fear of gun control, and the quest for an easy solution.
Position: There is no single cause for gun violence. There is no single solution to gun violence. The 2nd Amendment is federal so states must ultimately abide by U.S. Supreme Court rulings. I’m a gun owner and support the 2nd Amendment. However, reasonable checks and balances that still allow personal protection make sense in regard to modern weaponry.
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Details: On the issue of guns and gun violence, I totally agree with Mr. Einstein. We are doing next to nothing, paralyzed by partisan politics. My research indicates there is broad agreement on actions such as running background checks on all gun purchases, prohibiting anyone on the no-fly list from buying a gun, banning individuals with documented mental illness from buying guns, and a mandatory waiting period on gun purchases. There also seems to be widespread support for licensing owners of semi-automatic / semi-automatic like, high-capacity weapons. None of these steps are in and of themselves a magic solution…but each one will make some incremental improvement or, stated more bluntly, save innocent lives. So why are we doing nothing?
I’m a gun owner. I support the 2nd Amendment. I don’t want anyone taking my guns, especially the government. My parents gave me a .22 caliber rifle when I was 14. When I was 16, they gave me a shotgun. My father taught me how to use these guns safely and demanded that I do so. My mother got at least two dozen new gray hairs every time I went hunting with my friends. At my high school, there were guns in vehicles in the school parking lot because many of us went hunting after school. In my youth, incidents of suicide were rare; violent video games did not exist; I could not google “beheadings” or other heinous actions and instantly watch them in living color; television, movies, and music lyrics were much more reserved than what we’re exposed to these days. Somehow, I believe, these and other societal changes are giving us unintended consequences, including gun violence. I still have my guns and they have provided me much enjoyment although, the only thing I shoot at these days are tin cans and clay pigeons.
Weapons technology has changed greatly since the 2nd Amendment was written. We’ve developed rapid fire, high-capacity weapons of war, designed to kill people more efficiently. It is my firm opinion the drafters of our U.S. Constitution did not have these weapons in mind under “the right to bear arms”, especially without reasonable checks and balances. The drafters of our Constitution were rightfully big on checks and balances.
Lastly, we have collectively agreed over time that implicitly dangerous weapons should be highly controlled–explosives, grenade launchers, missiles, land minds, etc. If I’m not mistaken, there are still laws about switchblade knives for heaven’s sake. So why do we balk about some controls on the controversial automatic / automatic like, high-capacity weapons? It is time we do something to enact effective solutions to reduce gun violence to protect us all, especially our children!
Respect for Life
So, what do we as a society really think about life?
Issue: Pro-life or Pro-choice with no middle ground.
Position: On rare occasions, abortion might be the best, imperfect decision. However, those choices should be for the mother, father (with the exception of rape) and family doctor–not the government. We must make incremental improvements and stop the search for a simple answer. I believe the most progress is rooted in the broader context of respect for life.
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Details: So, what do we as a society think about life? We claim to value it highly. Yet, we support capital punishment. Assisted suicide is now legal in numerous states. 47 or so murders occur every day in our country, few even make a headline. We’ve detonated atomic weapons wiping out entire cities. (At last report the United States has over 6,000 nuclear warheads.) We seem calloused to war in general and in fact appear somewhat slaves to what our own President Eisenhower feared, the military-industrial complex. We appear just as calloused to the killing of our children in their schools. Really, what do we as a society, think about the value of life? Given humanity’s behavior, it’s difficult to reconcile this question with any reasonable logic.
Some of my personal opinions about abortion: Abortion is not as simple as an absolute yes or no issue. Data indicates the number of abortions has been steadily declining over the past 20 years. I wish they were extremely rare. I don’t believe anyone really wants an abortion. As a form of birth control, well, I just can’t agree with that. Fathers, except in cases of rape, should be involved in decisions about the life they helped create. In those mostly rare cases where abortion must be considered, it should be left between the mother, father (with the exception of rape) and family doctor, not the government. Just like prohibition and alcohol or the War on Drugs, I don’t believe abortion will ever end. That being said, and again, not believing anyone really wants an abortion, we can make progress.
Progress on the abortion issue, I have to believe, is to be found in providing for more stable households; effective, forth-right education; improved support for single parents; access to birth control; vibrant adoption programs, and more. But really, continual wrestling with and living out a consistent message about how our society overall, values and celebrates life, in my opinion, is the most important focus.
From a more personal perspective, in the early days of one of my children’s incubation, a test indicated chances of severe developmental problems. The doctor recommended that abortion be considered as further tests were conducted. That was a nightmarish time for me trying to think through that decision. I never arrived at a decision as fortunately, the test came back clear. However, a premature birth occurred at about 28 weeks–3 pounds and 15 inches long. Other than tiny, a perfect little human. After spending a month in the neo-natal intensive care with even smaller preemies, I can’t fathom terminating a pregnancy at that stage, especially when that life can exist on its own, outside of its mother’s womb. Thankfully my story has a happy ending as I am now blessed with a healthy, adult child.
A long and careful look at the Kansas tax code
If we can invoke our very best political behavior, this can be powerful.
Issue: Over time, the state tax code has become convoluted, difficult to manage, more difficult to understand, and often favors special interests.
Position: The tax code needs to be simplified and fair. I fully support the current bipartisan Council on Tax Reform which began work in September, 2019. As stated, the charge to the Council is for creation of a “fiscally responsible, fair, and sustainable tax structure.”. I also support the elimination of the sales tax on food.
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Details: I have many professional years of looking at all levels of tax returns. Additionally, the past two years I have been a Volunteer income tax preparer for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This is a wonderful program that offers free tax preparation to low and moderate-income households. These experiences have given me a revealing look into how both our state and federal tax codes play out. My conclusion is that tax codes are far too complex with too many inequitable consequences.
Our three-legged tax stool—income, sales, and property taxes—has become unbalanced. Local property tax seems to be forced to be the equalizer. The bipartisan Council is a great first step towards re-balancing. I strongly support this effort however, it will not be easy work. There will not be easy solutions that will be loved by everyone. Nevertheless , it is a task that, if performed well, will better position our entire state for the future.
I will work toward reducing and ultimately eliminating, the sales tax on grocery store food. Food is a common denominator, essential to life. A tax on food is disproportionately higher on lower income households. “Food” of course needs to be further defined. My starting point would be food sold at grocery or grocery-type stores. I would also support including basic personal hygiene and health care items. Restaurants would not be included nor would items such as cigarettes and alcohol.
The “de-coupling” with federal tax returns needs an in-depth review along with the consideration of returning to a system of revenue sharing with cities and counties only if it will reduce local property tax rather than enable more local spending. The state gasoline tax needs a close look as we thankfully continue to make improvements in vehicle efficiency and non-gasoline powered vehicles. However, increased fuel efficiency does not mean decreased costs of maintenance and highway expansion.
“Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Ancient Indian Proverb
Issue: Being good stewards and understanding long-term impacts of our actions regarding natural resources and our environment.
Position: There are things we can do at the state level to make positive differences for present and future generations. When elected, I will keep environmental impact as a constant presence on my legislative radar.
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I feel bound by duty to future generations to do all I can to protect and preserve our environment. This environment includes air, water, soil, and access to natural places, to name a few. Due to the oil, gas, agricultural, and livestock metrics in our state, it is critical that we are good stewards of our collective environment. Earthquakes in Reno County should be a meaningful example of impacts of our actions. I don’t know about you, but I have cracks in my house that didn’t used to be there.
For me, climate change is very real…mostly in negative impact kinds of ways. I understand the full impact is debatable and the science is not perfect. I just feel no personal need to see the proverbial flames before I believe it. It seems far better to err on the side of reasonable caution than to party like there is no tomorrow. There are things we can do on a personal level and at a state government level to make positive differences. At the very least, we need to invest in disaster preparation and recovery strategies as high-impact, environmental events are indisputably on the increase. We should also be maximizing the Kansas potential for wind and solar energy. Furthermore, due to advances in science, technology, and production, many actions that are environmentally positive also have a positive impact on our bottom line. But like most other issues, only thinking about it doesn’t help much. We must act. If elected, I will keep environmental impact as a constant presence on my legislative radar.