In the primary election Tuesday, Aug. 2, Bill Hutton and Donald G. Terrien are running for the Kansas Senate, 5th District Democratic nomination.
Both candidates agree that education is a top issue, but they have different methods of increasing state revenues to fund schools.
The candidates appeared at a forum July 12 sponsored by Business West, neighborhood business organizations and Kansas City Kansas Community College.
The 5th District includes parts of western Wyandotte County and Leavenworth County. The incumbent is Republican State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald. About 60 percent of the district is in Leavenworth County and 40 percent in Wyandotte County.
Hutton, of Basehor, Kan., has been an attorney for 36 years in Kansas City, Kan., and a part-time municipal judge in Bonner Springs for 14 years. He also was a municipal judge in Kansas City, Kan., for three years.
“I’m running for the state Senate because of the failed policies of Gov. Brownback, and the votes and the actions of his ardent supporter, the current one-term incumbent in Senate District 5,” Hutton said.
He said he favors local control over issues ranging from property taxes to gun control, and he opposes unfunded mandates from the state. He supports equitable funding of the public schools, and he does not support a constitutional amendment that would limit the powers of the Kansas Supreme Court, he said.
Terrien, 41, of Lansing, Kan., said he has been a member of the working class for 20 years. He pays taxes every year, and he thinks it’s ridiculous some of the things he’s seen that happen in the state. He said education is an important issue.
“I’ve had enough so I figured I would try to do something about it,” Terrien said.
He said that legalizing marijuana could produce more tax revenues that could be used for education. Terrien also is a supporter of gun rights, and believes the sale of cigarettes should be illegal.
Hutton said projects that received sales tax revenue bonds here paid significantly more in property taxes than had been paid previously. With the payoff of the STAR bonds on Village West, more sales tax revenues are coming into the community.
“What we’re seeing is a major increase in the funds from sales tax that will go directly to Wyandotte County, and to the community college and to the school district to reduce property taxes,” he said.
Terrien said he thinks the property tax is outrageous currently the way it is now.
“There’s some states that have legalized marijuana, with all kinds of tax revenue,” Terrien said. He said he thinks Kansas should legalize marijuana.
“In order to increase funding for schools, we’ve got to do something drastic,” Terrien said.
On the issue of the property tax lid, Hutton said the state Legislature always says the federal government shouldn’t tell the state government what to do, and by the same token, the state shouldn’t tell local governments what to do. The local elected officials in Wyandotte County should be able to determine what appropriate taxes are, he said. Voters can vote them out of office if they don’t agree with the decision, but Hutton doesn’t believe the state should impose a property tax lid on local governments.
“They raised the sales tax and didn’t ask the local population about that,” Hutton said. “We now have the highest overall sales tax rate in the country.”
Hutton said he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana. If there are medical exceptions under medical supervision, that’s possible, but it is not a quick fix for the budget, and he doesn’t think that’s how Kansas should support its schools.
On the question of the Dream Act, Hutton said he supports it. The students who are affected are those who have been here since they were small children and have graduated from high schools. He said they need to have the same opportunities as other residents to get a higher education. He said he would support their ability to get student loans the same as any other resident of Kansas, as they should be on the same basis as other citizens.
Kansas needs to revisit its corporate tax structure, as well as revisit the issue when the state reduced its major sources of revenue from three to two, he said.
Terrien said if there isn’t money to support the Dream Act students, there’s nothing they can do. “We can’t just give out money to everybody and expect the budget to be perfect, because it’s just not going to happen,” he said. Since the students have lived here so long, they should qualify for the same grants that everyone else receives, he said.
On the question of increasing the amount of the slots revenue that The Woodlands would be able to keep, which was in a bill proposed by Sen. Fitzgerald, Hutton said any change to the 2008 law would require close scrutiny. He said with this bill Sen. Fitzgerald was not looking out for the best interests of the citizens of Wyandotte County, of the three cities in Wyandotte County, nor of all the school districts in Wyandotte County.
Hutton said he is in favor of The Woodlands reopening as long as it is a fair and level playing field with other casinos that are already in Kansas City, Kan.
Terrien said his top issue is education. He said some of the school districts are falling behind and some school programs have been cut.
“If you do something like legalize marijuana, it’s going to bring in so much tax revenue that some of these programs can open up right away, and some of these falling behind schools can actually get more funding to bring them up to par,” Terrien said.
Hutton said school funding going forward was the top issue. “The Legislature, because the Kansas Supreme Court forced them to, came up with a stop-gap solution for the year 2016,” Hutton said. “That does not deal with inequities we face in 2017, where our poorer districts do not receive the same funds as our richer districts because there are other funds quite frankly available in some of the richer districts in Kansas.”
More than 50 percent of the Kansas budget goes toward education, he said. “Going forward, it must be fair and equitable for all students,” he said, “K-12, and by the same token, we have to look at the cost for higher education, especially the community college level.”
Hutton has been endorsed by the political action committee of the KNEA, Mainstream Coalition, Tri-County Labor Council and Kansas Families for Education.
“My job is to listen to my constituents and do everything I can to make sure their needs and wants are addressed,” he said.
To view the candidate forum online, visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMfeRPiOepX3iQS-Y5OCca80njs3sop8W.
The forum is being shown on KCKCC’s cable television station. To see a schedule, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/candidate-forum-to-be-shown-on-kckcc-cable-channel-2/.
To see Terrien’s responses to the Women for Kansas questionnaire, visit http://womenforkansas.org/donald-terrien/.
To see Hutton’s responses to the Women for Kansas questionnaire, visit http://womenforkansas.org/bill-hutton/.