Fort Scott Chamber of Commerce and KOMB Sponsored a Candidates’ Forum at the Fort Scott Community College on Monday evening at 6pm.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 2
Kansas Senate – Karen Tyson vs. Denise Cassells
Karen Tyson talked about her experience working with NASA and how that prompted her to want to get involved in reducing government waste.
Denise Cassells says she has lived on a farm for her whole live so she is familiar with the rural area. She talked about her experience working with managing businesses.
Ms. Cassells said that her understanding of KanCare was that there were three insurances working to provide the contract to Kansas. She said that the state of Kentucky did the same thing, but they are now being sued over it. She isn’t sure that the plan will save money overall. She is open to looking at the program and hopes it works for the state.
Ms. Tyson says she previously voted on this legistlation and she was one of the people who voted for an oversight committee for KanCare. She doesn’t feel that the legistlature had any oversight over how KanCare would work. She said that the representative that carried the bill was killed in a car accident later that day, so “it was a trying case for him.”
Small Business Tax Rate Change
Ms. Tyson was asked about the projected deficit from the change that will help lower the taxes on small businesses. She said that businesses that are able to keep more money will allow them to create jobs and spend the money in other ways that will help generate more revenues. She said that Missouri is worried that businesses and individuals will move to Kansas to take advantage of this business environment.
Ms. Cassells feel that the projections are accurate. She feels that the property taxes should be lowered in order to put money back in people’s pockets and generate jobs. She doesn’t think people will see much benefit from it.
Cassells asked Tyson about an ammendment she proposed that would have eliminated the earned income credit. Asked how she could justify voting “against children” and for “businesses”. Tyson said the information was inaccurate and she had worked with someone to keep the rate the same. She also tried to make all tax programs “non-refundable” in order to keep people from getting back more than they paid in taxes. She said this would save Kansas $97.5 million per year.
Tyson asked Cassells how she came up with a number of 38% for property tax. Cassells said it came from the legislative research office.
Tyson said that the number was wrong. She also said that she had worked on a school supply tax holiday. She said that the numbers that were calculated were extremely high implying that the business tax rate change may similarly overstated. She talked about the effort of keeping the SRS office open. She read the following quote:
America is great because she is good. If American ceases to be good America will cease to be great.
Cassells said that the SRS spent $200,000 to change the name of the SRS. She feels that many of the tax deductions will hurt voters. She said we need to look at what it will cost us at the local level. She called on her experience as a Republican, Independent and now a Democrat as an indicator of her ability to vote for the people.
Kansas Sente District 13
Jake LaTurner’s opponent was not present so he was given two minutes to speak. He said he is in this race to make a difference in South East Kansas and thinks we can grow our economy by becoming more competitive with neighboring states. He supports “worth infrastructure projects” and “equality in school funding.” He said the next few years are going to be difficult for Kansas financially but he feels that the state can offset those deficits with new revenue streams.
Kansas House of Representatives District 2.
Bob Grant thanked the Chamber for putting on the event. He told a little about his family. He talked about his roots in the area and his experience.
Jeff Locke said he is doing this for his children and grandchildren. He said he wants to make sure that property taxes aren’t the results of people leaving the area. He said he was happy to be in a $10 Million dollar auditorium build by contributions. He said he is pro-life.
Amendment to classify boats differently than other property
Jeff Locke said he does support the ammendment because it will get more people to tage their boats here. He said that a $30,000 boat would spend $10,000 over five years. He said that currently the boat tax doesn’t even bring in enough to pay for collecting the tax as it stands now.
Bob Grant said he doesn’t feel you can justify taking property taxes off boats. He doesn’t know if bringing them back in because of the amount of money it would cost to bring them back in. He feels that lowering tax on food would help elderly and give people a break as the property taxes go up.
Mandated healthcare coverage
Bob Grant feels that legistlature should look into whether Kansas should create an insurance exchange. He said he hasn’t read the affordable care act because it is “this thick”. He said there are some good things in it. He wants to start with the “good things that are in there.”
Jeff Locke said it is another layer of bureaucracy. He feels we should have created a healthcare amendment and let people vote on it. He suggests that health insurance be sold across state lines. He also suggested that businesses and organizations be allowed to pool together to get better rates. He said that creating thousands of pages of regulations is wrong.
Sales tax on food
Jeff Locke said that an exemption on food sales tax would give a bigger benefit to people who buy lobster. He suggests giving people a “pre-bate” for basic necessities. He said we can lower sales tax by removing special exemptions.
Bob Grant does support an exemption on food sales tax to help elderly and people on fixed incomes. He said the current tax plan passed by the governor is “Robin Hood in reverse.”
Locke asked Grant said he is going to take a pledge to fulfill the full term if elected and asked if Bob Grant would take a pledge to do the same. Bob Grant said he would finish the term.
Bob Grant said he had no questions for Jeff Locke.
Bob Grant again thanked the chamber and people from coming out. He appealed to his track record of working with Democrats and Republicans which he feels is important in “these trying times.” He said he is pro-life with the voting record to prove it.
Jeff Locke said he has worked for 25 years as a teacher and as a negotiator for the faculty. He feels that state solutions are better than federal mandates. He once again pointed out that the building was build without taking tax money from people and that it is much better to have a choice how you spend your money.
Kansas House of Representative District 4
Shirley Palmer opened by calling on her 40 years experience as a classroom teacher and her 4 years in government She said she has four degrees including one from FSCC and three from Pittstate.
Marty Read said he is pro-life, pro 2nd amendment and pro-small business. He thanked the chamber for creating the forum.
State Base Aid Per Pupil has Declined. Would you support increasing it.
Marty Read said the public sector is supported by the private sector.
Palmer said she would support increasing the dollars spent per student. She said that our constitution allows us to spend up to 65%, but we aren’t doing that. She feels the schools are suffering because of that.
Smoking is banned in most public places. What do you think about banning it in casinos.
Palmer said she has lost relatives to cancer and feels second hand smoke is destrimental to our health. She voted for the ban and said she lost a lot of votes. She feels that what is “good for one ought to be good for the other.”
Read said he is against smoking. He said he would vote against smoking in casinos.
Do you support the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas
Marty Read said he doesn’t know enough about it and would have to study it.
Shirley Palmer said she does support it because she feels that a lot of other states do it and if we don’t do it Kansas “would not equal what they would be deserving to have.”
Read asked Palmer if there is anything in the platform of the democatic party that she would change. She said there are. She said she is a Christian and she feels that the stance on pro-choice vs. pro-life isn’t something she agrees with. She is pro-life. She believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She said there are many that positions that she does not agree with.
Palmer asked Read about a statement when he stated that he was running for “extreme conservatism and no compromise.” She asked how he plans to avoid gridlock. He said he can’t compromise. He is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. He feels that liberalism has attacked the family and that is why he stated that and that he will “stick to his guns”. He feels he can get along with the “other side of the aisle.”
Read closed with pointing out that he is not a career politician and doesn’t want to be one. He feels that states are in a competitive position regarding jobs. He feels lower taxes will attract jobs. He pointed out that people go to Missouri to buy tax and with lower taxes we could attract them to Kansas. He stressed that he is pro-life, pro-second amendment.
Palmer closed by saying that she really loves people and wants to help them. She asked for voters support. She wants to keep people informed and communicate with people. Her priorities will be job creation, bringing businesses to Kansas. She disagrees with the the current tax strategy. She feels compromise is very important and there is a need to reach across party lines.
Bourbon County Clerk
Evelyn Taylor said she has worked in the medical field. She has worked with the public and feels she has a great way of working with people.
Kendall Mason said she worked for Great West and the Bourbon County office. She listed a number of duties she performed there and said she is back working as Clerk because she was appointed to finish the term.
How would you increase voter turnout
She said she encourages people to vote, but is more interested in free advertising. She pointed out that we’ve had over 700 people vote already. She feels the current turnout is good.
Taylor said she would have to access the situation, but felt there has been a lot of turn out.
Extended voting hours
Taylor said she would continue offering extended voting hours.
Mason said if the voter turnout is good and justifies the cost, it should be kept.
Technology in clerks office
Mason said she feels it is adequate from what she has seen.
Taylor said she’d have to assess it when she gets into office.
Taylor and Mason said they had no questions for each other.
Mason closed by thanking the current office help in the clerk’s office and everyone who has supported her.
Taylor thanked all her supporters and the people who believed in her. She feels the transition into the clerks office won’t be as hard as if she had no clerical experience. She said she is a person of good moral character.
Bourbon County Commission
Barbara Albright says she has always wanted to serve the public and started looking at the position when she heard Endicott wasn’t going to run again.
Clyde Killion said he has worked with commissioners in the past so he knows what they do.
Important issue in Bourbon County
Albright said the declining tax base is probably the most important issue. She said she is very interested in building the tax base and being efficient.
Killion said we need jobs to get our tax base up or we are going to have to pay more taxes.
New detention facility
Albright said there was a study where they looked at building a new detention facility and said she’d need to research that study before she could form an opinion.
Killion said he’d be willing to build one, but paying for it might be another problem. He thinks it would pay for itself.
Harold Coleman is running un-opposed for his seat on the commission.
Bourbon County Treasurer
Rhonda Dunn wants to put her experience in big oil and small family business to work in the county.
Susan Quick started in the treasurer’s office in 91 and ran when the treasurer she worked under retired. She appreciates the job and asked for people’s vote.
Public perception and how can it be improved
Quick said the public probably thinks that the office collects taxes and distributes the tax dollars and all of this has to balance. She said the office balances every day and at the end of each month and they do the best job they can.
Dunn said that looking back over the last 12 to 18 months the perception is one of mistrust and there is not confidence there. She said she would be open and fair and that she tends to overcommunicate. She feels the policies of the county should be very public with no “shroud of mystery”. She said the website can be improved to make things open.
Are you in favor of a payment plan
Dunn said she would be in favor of a plan that lets people pay their taxes on time. She said that getting $50 rather than $0 that is an improvement. She said with this economy this will become a bigger and bigger issue and wants the county to collect every dollar that we can.
Quick said there already is a payment plan. There was a problem with the interest rates on the previous software. She said they couldn’t advertise the payment plan or the county wouldn’t have any revenue. She said you can now pay any amount you want at any time and the new software will keep track of everything. She said the Attorney General’s office found that there was nothing done wrong in the office.
Checks and balances
Quick felt the checks and balances are adequate.
Dunn cited instances where accounts were out of balance for a few weeks while $3,000 was located. She said that payments to prisoners did not have two signatures. (Quick interjected that those did not come from the Treasurer’s office.) She said clearly there is not enough internal control.
Dunn asked Quick what she would do differently over the last 18 months while citing the missing $3,000 and the claim against Quick’s surety bond. Quick said there was no money missing and much of the problems were caused by disgruntled employees.
Quick asked Dunn how she would collect taxes differently and how she would serve the public since she is always “so rude”. Dunn said she was rude in the Treasurer’s office because her name was printed in the paper and nothing printed matched what the person behind the desk told her and that Quick always hides behind the desk and doesn’t help anyone.
Quick closed by saying that she wants to be elected again and that the vehicle office is going to improve. She said she works for everyone and at the time Ms. Dunn was in the office she was working with someone else in the back.
Dunn closed by saying that over the last two months it has been crystal clear that the county needs a new treasurer. She read from a letter to the editor by Edward Keating supporting that position. She cited her work ethic and integrity to do the position.
Bourbon County Register of Deeds
Number one issue to address
Lora Holdridge said that taxes and revenue are the biggest issue. She pointed out that her office is fee based and they take in about twice of what they spend.
Ann Clarkson said technology is her biggest issue. She said the current system could allow for electronic filing.
Public records available on line
Holdridge said she has mixed feelings because computers are only as good as what they put in. She said the stuff online is only available for businesses that show their business license. She said you can come into the office to get anything but having them online would make information available to everyone.
Clarkson said she agrees with making the records available online and that we should make everything available and things that shouldn’t be made available can be redacted.
Holdridge asked Clarkson how she feels that she doesn’t have integrity. Holdridge said that the public mistrusts elected officials and that as a whole that can be re-established.
Holdridge closed by saying that there are over 400,000 acres in Bourbon County. She said that her office is the protector of those records and that the things they do today are being done so someone can find what has been done 100 years from now.
Clarkson said she wanted to leave everyone with the question about what education is required for the office. She said the office should be striving to use better technology. She feels leadership experience is about what you will do in the future. She questioned what the current register of deeds has added to the office.
Bourbon County Sheriff
Ron Gray was not in attendance so Bob Jackson spoke for two minutes rather than the question answer period. He gave his history of having worked at the police department. After he retired he tried selling cars and then went back to being a road deputy. He says there are many problems in the sheriff’s department and he is taking a big risk running against his boss. He believes the community needs better law enforcement in the county. He said “It’s not safe out there. One of these days this county is going to wake up and we’ll be paying for a deputy’s hospital bills or attending a funeral.”
Bourbon County Attorney
Terri Johnson is running unopposed. She talked about her background and family. Her staff is committed to holding people accountable for crimes they have committed. She feels she has the experience and integrity to continue to do that. She said she appreciates the support she has had and she is committed to doing the best job she can as county attorney.