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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Senate, House candidates discuss issues

  • Two weeks ago, candidates running for county offices had the chance to respond to questions. And Wednesday night, candidates for the state Legislature took center stage in the second in a series of forums sponsored by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County.
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    • The next forum
      The next candidate forum in a series being sponsored by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lansing ...
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      The next forum
      The next candidate forum in a series being sponsored by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Lansing City Hall. That forum will feature candidates for the 3rd District of the Kansas Senate and the 40th District of the Kansas House of Representatives.
  • Two weeks ago, candidates running for county offices had the chance to respond to questions. And Wednesday night, candidates for the state Legislature took center stage in the second in a series of forums sponsored by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County.
    Wednesday’s forum featured candidates for the state Senate’s 5th District, incumbent Democrat Kelly Kultala and Republican Steve Fitzgerald. The candidates for the Kansas House of Representatives’ 41st District, incumbent Republican Jana Goodman and Democrat
    Melanie Meier, also answered questions. Meier has represented the 40th District in the past but is now seeking the seat for the 41st District.
    One of the questions asked during the forum concerned what the candidates view as the major issues.
    Fitzgerald said the main issues have to be the economy and jobs.
    He said the state hasn’t had private sector job growth in a long time.
    He said people and businesses are leaving the state.
    “We must bring back our prosperity,” Fitzgerald said.
    Kultala said she would like to continue to work on public education.
    “I think we need to fully fund it,” she said.
    She said public education is an economic development tool and workforce development engine.
    The incumbent state senator also said she wants to continue to work on jobs. She said the 5th District is one of the few state Senate districts that has created jobs.
    Goodman said the economy probably is the most critical issue.
    She said investment in infrastructure and education is not what creates jobs. She said reducing taxes and regulations and removing uncertainty creates jobs.
    “No one loves education more than I do,” Goodman said.
    But she asked what good is getting a college education if a person can’t find a job.
    Meier said infrastructure and an educated workforce are important. She said education needs to include technical schools as well as college.
    She said college debt is dragging down people right now.
    Meier said she keeps her ears open and takes suggestions from people such as representatives of local chambers of commerce.
    Candidates were asked about funding for public education and support for private and charter schools as well as school vouchers.
    “I’m fully behind public education,” Meier said.
    She said it is a mainstay of prosperity in the United States.
    She said cuts in education, some of which may have been necessary, have put the funding level to where it was 11 years ago.
    Meier said she doesn’t believe the state should support school vouchers because it’s a way to bleed money from the public education system.
    Page 2 of 3 - While funding was previously cut, Goodman said education spending has done nothing but go up during the two years she’s been in the House.
    Goodman said she doesn’t necessarily believe the amount of money spent determines the quality of an education.
    She said more innovation needs to be allowed.
    Kultala said the governor’s tax plan, which she called a tax shift plan, will result in cuts in education. She said this will result in “haves” and “have nots” as some school districts can afford to increase property taxes to make up the difference and others can’t.
    Kultala said the state’s current funding formula for public education is correct.
    “We should fund it,” she said.
    Fitzgerald said the prediction that tax cuts will result in cuts to education is “all projection, conjecture, assumption and fear mongering.”
    He said, despite a series of cuts, the state is still spending a lot on education.
    “Money is not the problem,” he said. “Money is not the answer.”
    Candidates were asked about recent cuts to the Kansas Department of Commerce that resulted in, among other things, the elimination of the Kansas Main Street program.
    Fitzgerald said there has to be a reduction in government spending, but there also needs to be a spur in growth.
    He said it seems as though the state was cutting an area that would lead to job growth.
    “I’m not sure it’s the wisest thing,” he said.
    Kultala said the Leavenworth Main Street Program is going to be OK, but it will miss training and matching grant funding provided at the state level.
    “This is going to fall on local government to pick up the tab,” she said.
    Goodman said officials are looking for ways to keep the state Incentives Without Walls grant program, which has been used by the Leavenworth Main Street Program.
    Meier said she was baffled that a program that helps small businesses would be cut.
    Candidates were asked about the federal health care reform law.
    Kultala said the Affordable Care Act deserves a chance. She said the federal law isn’t perfect, but it’s a beginning.
    Fitzgerald said the U.S. has good health care and believes it would be hurt if it were put into a socialistic system. He said the end result would be a single payer system.
    Goodman expressed concern that some of the changes brought about by the federal law could hurt innovation in the health care industry.
    Page 3 of 3 - Meier said the federal law has issues, but there are a lot of good things about it.
    “I think it would be a mistake to totally repeal it,” she said.
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