GUEST COLUMN: Focusing on local issues

Rep. Pat Proctor
Rep. Pat Proctor

For the last two years, politicians have told us the Centennial Bridge was “on the list.” When I arrived in Topeka, I found out it was on a list – the unfunded list. I have been pushing hard on the Kansas Department of Transportation, in private and in the Transportation Committee, and I can announce that our bridge has finally moved into the development phase and has a projected date for construction of 2026. That’s not good enough for me. I am going to keep fighting to move that date to the left, but at least it is finally funded.

Another project that politicians have been promising us for years without results is a veterans’ home for northeast Kansas. Before I was even sworn in, I pre-filed HB 2020 and HB 2021 to get this project started. And we’re making progress. A few days ago, the governor issued an executive order that is nearly identical to HB 2020, directing the Commission on Veterans Affairs to apply for a federal grant for the home. I still have to pass HB 2021, which appropriates the money, or the grant won’t be approved. But at least we’re finally making progress.

But as I promised during the campaign, my top priority remains rebuilding the Kansas economy after the disastrous coronavirus economic shutdown. Last week, I was proud to join an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of representatives in voting for SB 13, a measure that will take the teeth out of the outrageous property tax valuation increases we face each year here in Leavenworth. Now, city and county commissions will have to affirmatively vote to raise our property taxes or the mill levy will automatically drop, lowering our taxes to the same level as the previous year. Additional accountability for property tax rates will ultimately result in lower tax bills for home and business owners. More money in the pockets of small business owners means they can afford to hire more employees.

Last week, I also voted for HB 2196, a measure that will repair the state’s broken unemployment system. The bill increases oversight, modernizes the IT infrastructure, increases transparency at the Kansas Department of Labor and strengthens penalties for fraud. Most importantly, it ensures that businesses and nonprofits won’t end up paying the bill for the massive fraud that the KDOL allowed to continue for so long.

Thank you for the trust and confidence that you’ve placed in me. I am honored to serve you as your state representative.

Rep. Pat Proctor represents District 41 in the Kansas House of Representatives.