Issues

Solutions, not politics. That is my pledge to you.

It is my opinion that selecting someone to represent you is for the most part, 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 vs. selecting someone who simply agrees with you on your favorite issue(s).

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 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 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.

Below are some of my thoughts on various issues. As your Representative, I would 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.

Partisan Politics
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 the 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 this quote 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 is why I pledge to seek solutions, not politics.

The issue of partisan politics holds us all hostage from making positive, forward progress. This 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.

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 is a healthy process when conducted by civil, respectful, open-minded, transparent, truth seeking individuals….even if they don’t fully agree.  The concept is perhaps best summed up by the picture below.

12/2019

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Improved Medicaid availability
Avoiding the death spiral of our health care system.

Issue:  Hundreds of thousands of Kansans 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: We must find ways for individuals and families, especially those in lower income situations, to have better care.  Access to better health care has so many pluses.  Improved Medicaid availability will help more people have access to health care and more health care providers to be reimbursed for their services. It is not THE solution, only a step forward.  Nor is it 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 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 health care. Medicaid expansion is just one possibility.

12/2019

Education
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.Benjamin Franklin

Issue:  Providing equitable and adequate school funding as required by the 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 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?  Unfortunately, it took intervention by the courts, however, increased funding of education has again been set on the right track.  Not only does this 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; the world has changed. Accordingly, the educational process must change. This 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 PreK-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 quite 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 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.

12/2019

Debt
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 of all but one of the six surrounding and 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 6 surrounding and nearby states. Nebraska is low 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 was, many dollars were ‘re-directed’ to fund short-term State operations.

It irritates me that past leadership has used what seems to be some ‘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 be considered fraudulent. If we absolutely need to borrow, 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 requires commitment, reducing expenses where possible and increasing income when justified.

12/2019

Economic Development
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. 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. That 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 begin understanding and addressing what data seems to clearly point out has been and is happening, in terms of wealth accumulation. An applicable quote 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 begun publishing 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.

U.S. Private Sector Job quality index

I am pleased that Governor Kelly is supporting the Rural Prosperity Initiative headed up by Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers. This is all about economic development and Kansas has so much potential in this area.  It 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 came to Kansas as an immigrant.  I think it turned out pretty well.

To summarize my thoughts about balance and economic development, although I don’t know the exact origin of the following, I find much meaning in these lines:  “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 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!

12/2019

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 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 rehab, I believe we should be keeping more individuals in their home, with their family and on their job instead of expecting rehabilitation to occur in the midst of all that disruption. We seem to be willing to do this with 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 justice system is needed to energize and modernize, with the end result being better and timelier 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…mental health care, 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 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 that 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’. Since ‘we’ are the government, thus, 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 part of 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.

12/2019

Guns
” 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 a federal issue 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 regards 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 and failure of our elected representatives to lead. The reading I have done 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 are in and of themselves a magic solution…but each one will make some incremental improvement. Stated more bluntly….save innocent lives. So why are we doing nothing?

I’m a gun owner. I support the concept of 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 them safely and demanded I do so. My mother got at least two dozen new gray hairs every time I went hunting with my friends. 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 in living color; television, movies and music lyrics were much more reserved than what we’re exposed to these days. 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 more efficiently kill people. It is my firm opinion the makers of our Constitution did not have this in mind under ‘the right to bear arms’, especially without reasonable checks and balances. The makers of our Constitution were rightfully big on checks and balances.

Lastly, we have collectively agreed over time that more dangerous weapons should be highly controlled….explosives, grenade launchers, missiles, land minds, etc. If I’m not mistaken, there are still laws on some books 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!

12/2019

Respect for Life
Science supports the fact that life does indeed begin at conception.

Issue:  Life does begin at conception but abortion is not an absolute yes or no issue.
 
Position:  On rare occasions, abortion might be the best, imperfect decision.   However, those choices should be for the mother, father 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 some states. 47 or so murders occur every day in our country, few even making a headline. We’ve detonated atomic weapons wiping out entire cities. [At last report the U.S. has over 6,000 nuclear warheads.] We seem calloused to war in general and if 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 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: Life does indeed begin at conception.  However, 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 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, family doctor and abortion provider, 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 27 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 it own, outside of its mother’s womb. Well, thankfully my story has a happy ending as I am now blessed with a healthy, adult child.

12/2019

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, tax code becomes 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 VITA income tax preparer. 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. This will not be easy work. There will not be easy solutions that will be loved by everyone. However, it is a task that, if it is well performed, 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 incomes. “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 of course 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.

12/2019

Environment
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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Details:

I feel bound by duty to future generations to do all I can to protect and preserve our environment. This 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 it 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.  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.

12/2019

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