Candidates for governor differed on their positions on education and other issues in tonight’s debate, broadcast in this area on KSMO-TV.
Both candidates expertly fielded questions during the debate from Wichita, televised throughout the state.
In the third debate in the governor’s race, Democratic challenger Paul Davis said that incumbent Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law the biggest cut of public education in Kansas. Davis said he supported restoring funding to public education.
He said that Brownback had “jeopardized the quality of education for entire generations of Kansas kids.”
Brownback, however, differed on this issue and said, “I wish they would get this record right.” He said a lot of the education cuts took place in Gov. Mark Parkinson’s administration. Brownback said he supported education and he increased funding to kindergarten through 12th grade every year he was in office. “They shouldn’t lie about that in their advertising,” he said.
A political analyst has recently pointed out that the candidates are both right in that Davis is talking about funding cuts to the classroom that often resulted in larger class sizes and fewer teachers. Brownback is discussing overall education funding, including dollars spent for new school buildings and for financing education.
Davis said during the forum, referring to negative political ads, that persons supporting Brownback have resorted to personal attacks on Davis because they can’t win on the issues. He added that he knew from the beginning there would be an ugly campaign with public attacks from Brownback’s supporters.
Brownback said that the Kansas economy is moving forward and he had put into place a pro-growth plan. He said that Davis favored an Obama-style economy of higher taxes, no growth, and “everyone telling us what to do.” Brownback said he favored lower taxes.
Brownback said the state had been a in a period of high taxes, 6.45 percent income tax rates, and that has now been reduced to 4.8 percent. He said he is working to advance the growth agenda and not the tax agenda.
Brownback also was critical of the “Obama” tax-and-spend model, saying, “I think you will spend your money more wisely than the federal government will spend it.”
Davis said he had voted many times in the past to cut taxes, but the governor’s economic experiment was not working, He said there would be $1.3 billion in debt over the next five years because of the governor’s experiment.
“We can’t afford that,” Davis said. “We’re going to have more cuts to schools, we’re going to have more dollars taken out of our transportation plan, a proven job creator. We’ve got to end this experiment because it’s just not working.”
The candidates also responded to a question on same-sex marriage and the Kansas constitutional amendment.
Davis said at the time it was passed, as a state legislator he did not support the constitutional amendment in Kansas that said marriage was between a man and woman only. He said he believed it would have an adverse effect on the welcoming image of the state of Kansas. He added that since it is in the constitution, there is nothing he or the governor “can do to impact this issue.” It is in the hands of the court system, he added. He said he was disappointed that Brownback was an early supporter of a law that would legalize discrimination.
Brownback said 70 percent of the citizens of Kansas voted for this constitutional amendment, and he also voted for it as a citizen. He said as governor, he would defend the constitution of Kansas, which contains this amendment.
On a question about insurance and the state’s role in insuring the uninsured, and how Kansas has opted out of the state exchange, Brownback said this federal health care program is a billion-dollar price tag for the state of Kansas. He said the state needs to take care of the people on Medicaid now, and shouldn’t be expanding into Obamacare in the Medicaid population when the state doesn’t have the money to do it.
Davis said the Medicaid program in Kansas has been another failed state experiment.
“All you hear are complaints from the health care providers that are delivering these services, and the thousands of Kansans, many of them people with disabilities, who have seen coverage denied, coverage delayed. We have to change the way this is working, because it’s not working,” Davis said.
On another topic, Davis said the state, local and federal governments, along with hospitals and health care, need to cooperate and be ready in the event of an Ebola case in Kansas. It is an issue where politics has no place, he said. He hopes there will not be an Ebola case, but if it does come here, the state needs to be ready for it, he said.
Brownback criticized the federal government as being too lax about Ebola, saying there should have been a travel ban on persons coming from countries that have many Ebola cases. He also said there is a need to be careful in the way waste disposal from Ebola patients is handled. Biocontainment facilities need to be ready for people, he added. Currently, a state plan is being prepared to deal with Ebola.
Davis said the governor’s economic experiment resulted in rising property taxes of more than 10 percent in the rural counties. He said cutting property taxes would be his first priority in cutting taxes.
Brownback said Davis voted against a bill to reduce property taxes as part of the overall school finance bill. Population decline has lessened from 10 percent to 1 percent in rural Kansas, Brownback said.
The forum also touched on the candidates’ positions on fracking, environmental issues, alternative sources of energy, water resources, and agriculture.
Keen Umbehr, a Libertarian candidate for governor, earlier in this debate cycle had asked to participate in forums but his campaign stated he was not invited. For more information on Umbehr’s positions, visit his website at www.keenforkansas.com/.