Prairie Village Post readers' questions and Barbara's responses:
Q: What are the three most important differences between you and your opponent?
A: The first difference of note would be my experience. I have served in the Legislature for five years and thus have an excellent working knowledge of the system. Since becoming a Representative I have worked extensively to educate myself on the multitudes of issues that are part of Kansas policy. My time on the education committee has allowed me to become an “expert” on the school funding formula, which is a crucial element for our district. I also have established relationships with many different people in Topeka, including legislators in both parties and lobbyists and policymakers from a wide variety of businesses and organizations. Those relationships take time to build and are invaluable to the legislative process. Experience is a great bonus when working in Topeka!
The next difference that comes to mind is my medical degree. The great education that I received at KU School of Medicine has been critical to my abilities to study issues, analyze data, and understand the needs of the people. My contribution to the House Health Committee is essential as a former provider of medical care. As the state continues to provide health care through Medicaid, providers need to be at the table to ensure that patients’ needs are met and that quality remains the focus. I will be the only physician in the legislature this upcoming session, and that voice needs to be represented.
The third difference would be my availability. My children are grown. My husband is busy with his own career. I can give completely of myself to representing the people of District 21. Even though Kansas has a “part-time” legislature, I consider this a full-time job and feel that the people deserve a representative who can devote that amount of time to the job.
Q: This year the Kansas Legislature approved a modest increase in the local option budget (LOB) that allows school districts to raise more tax money locally. Do you believe that local school districts should be allowed to raise additional unlimited local dollars, with voter approval, once the state formula is adequately funded?
A: The first task for the state is to adequately fund the formula! I would be open to tweaking some parts of the formula, but bottom line, we must follow the constitution and fund it! Unfortunately, funding the formula will not be an option this upcoming session since state revenues are dropping precipitously and it is more likely that there will actually be cuts to education. The bottom line: we are not funding the current formula. I was a member of the group that was responsible for drafting the bill to increase the local option budget (LOB) and voted for the initial bill. I believe that when the formula has been funded, school districts should be able to raise local dollars with voter approval. However, I truly doubt that the LOB will be increased once we fund the formula; there will not be a need.
Q: State individual income tax revenue was again below projections in September collections. Do the continuing shortfalls pose a genuine threat to the delivery of services in the state? When the Legislature convenes in 2015, what steps should it take to address these shortfalls?
A: The status of our state bank account stretches beyond a "genuine threat" and has stretched into the level of "crisis". Revenues for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 were down approximately $670 million and for FY 2015 are already down over $350 million. The shortfalls have led to two Moody downgrades of our bond ratings. As revenues plummet, our expenses remain and are significantly higher than our receipts. Services in this state, including education, mental health, our prison system, and so many others, depend upon the revenue stream generated by our tax structure. Good government includes fiscal responsibility, and thus the "crisis" label as revenues continue on this sharp downhill slide. We have cut over $1 billion from the State General Fund Budget since I have been in office. Addressing this self-imposed budget shortfall will require an evaluation of our current tax structure. Examples of changes that could occur include freezing the income tax march to zero, increasing tobacco taxes, re-evaluation of deductions offered by the state and elimination of any or all of them. Solutions should NOT include more cuts to education. My hope is that there will be an honest attempt to include all voices at the table to find solutions that involve compromise. That would require a change in philosophy of our leadership…and a change that I will be pushing for!
Q: Johnson County has been the economic engine of Kansas, delivering a substantial portion of the state’s tax revenue. What are the most effective steps the state could take to make sure that Johnson County continues its track record of economic productivity?
A: Maintaining the quality of life we expect in Johnson County is the best way to ensure that we continue to attract the people and businesses that drive our economic productivity. That starts with funding our schools to maintain the excellence in education that we have long been noted for. Having a well-educated workforce is a critical factor that businesses must have to succeed. The families who work in those businesses expect the best schools for their own children, as well. Education funding includes early childhood through higher education; all levels are needed to maintain the excellence required to keep Johnson County in the forefront of desirability. We also must support our infrastructure, specifically our roads and highways, to attract businesses here. Funding through the Kansas Department of Transportation is essential to both maintain and improve our ability to move goods and reach destinations. Additionally, having specific tax incentives such as our Angel Tax Credits keeps us competitive in the race to attract new businesses. Bottom line, the state must maintain its revenues to ensure the above. Cutting income tax has not been the economic driver that was promised, and as a result the State General Fund may not have the money to support the above requirements to sustain our economic productivity.
Q: Do you support the idea of repealing Common Core in Kansas? Why or why not?
A: I do NOT support repealing the Common Core Standards. Our local School Board has supported the implementation of Common Core Standards and I support local control. The teachers that I have discussed Common Core with support it because they can teach about the topics and not to a test. They see moving away from No Child Left Behind by using Common Core as a significant improvement. Common Core Standards are a benefit to students who move from one state to another by providing consistency in requirements. Of key import is understanding that Common Core allows each school district to choose its own curriculum, thus ensuring local control.
On a personal note, I served on the committee that wrote the Next Generation Science Standards and saw first-hand the wonderful input from educators, businesses, and citizens that shaped these standards. Concept oriented, thought-process driven learning that focuses on application to real life is the basis for Common Core and as such, it has my support.
Q: Should the state expand Medicaid to take advantage of federal dollars and get more Kansans healthcare under the Medicaid system? If not, what strategies should the state employ to get more Kansans healthcare coverage?
A: Expanding Medicaid would be good for Kansas for multiple reasons. I have been a vocal advocate for the expansion to take place in Kansas. Our hospitals, particularly our rural hospitals, are in financial jeopardy by not covering the patients who will be using their services and have no money to pay. From a social justice perspective, it is unconscionable to leave some of our citizens out of the health care system because of no insurance. Having health insurance will improve the health of these patients.
Bringing back the millions of dollars that Kansans have already paid in federal taxes will improve not only the health of the individuals covered but the health of our state economy. We also will receive a 90-10 match from the Federal Government for these newly covered patients, not the 60-40 match that we currently receive for those under Medicaid. That match will diminish over three years, but will be a significant boost to the healthcare system in Kansas if accepted. Accepting the expansion does not require a permanent status; if at any time we decide it is not working for Kansas, we can stop.
Q: Shawnee Mission School District has closed buildings, reduced the teaching staff, and increased the guidelines for class sizes in the last few years trying to manage a loss in state revenue. Do you believe that voters in each district should be able to raise unlimited funds locally beyond what the state provides – or returns – to the districts?
A: It is important to note that first and foremost, I support fully funding the current school funding formula. If that is done, we would have an increase of approximately $500 per student in base state aid per pupil. By funding our formula we would significantly reduce the need to increase local property taxes to raise money through our local option budget. If the legislature chooses not to fully fund the formula, then I support raising the local option budget but recognize that the requirement to equalize school funding would limit the impact of raising money locally.
Q: How long have you lived at your current residence? If you've lived at your current residence than five years, where did you live before and what factors led you to choose this area as your home? If you've lived in your current residence more than five years, what factors have led you to stay?
A: We have lived in our current home for 23 years. I grew up about five blocks away from our current residence from age 5 until starting KU Medical School. We chose to live here to be close to our families, to have access to excellent schools for our children, and because it is a great place to raise a family. Now that our children are grown, we continue to love our neighborhood including the people, Prairie Village businesses, and the overall quality of life offered in our city.
Q: Following the tax cuts of the 2012 session of the Legislature, Kansas has faced increasingly difficult budget situations - and the issue is being compounded by the fact that actual state revenues are millions of dollars below what was projected when the cuts were made. Providing that revenues do not bounce back very soon, what solutions would you support moving forward?
A: I did not support the original tax plan to move us toward zero Income tax. With the results we have seen we must stop the march to zero. Then we need to evaluate our current tax policy and see what is working, what is not, and make adjustments. I support a more balanced (equal parts income, sales, and property) tax approach. We should consider other revenue sources to see if they are best for the state, including current tax exemptions, current farmland property tax, essentially all of our tax structure. By careful study we may find that taxes will not need to be raised to meet our budget requirements, but we must support good government.
Listen to the interview in which Barbara discusses education funding as well as other education issues.
For more information on issues affecting education check out the Kansas National Education Association.
Kansas Health Institute presents great information without apparent bias. I hope you will take the time to read their Health Reform Brief 7: What the Supreme Court Ruling on Health Reform May Mean for Kansans
Oral Health in Kansas by Alex Severance, Intern