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Democrat believes Kansas needs a change at top

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By Dave Bergmeier

Paul Davis may be a Lawrence native, but he believes he has a handle on state issues that impact rural and agricultural interests in Kansas.

Davis, a 42-year-old Democrat, is the Kansas House Minority Leader and is seeking to unseat Gov. Sam Brownback, a Topeka Republican seeking his second term in November. Davis believes the incumbent’s policies have impacted rural Kansans in an adverse manner.

“I’m very concerned about the increase in property taxes and that is a concern in rural areas in Kansas,” Davis said. One of the culprits is a Brownback initiative to reduce state income taxes that will not benefit all Kansans.

Brownback’s income tax plan approved two years ago has not only negatively impacted the state’s capability to provide essential services in the long term, but it has also hurt local governments across the state. People are fed up with increases in property taxes, which hurts rural homeowners, Main Street business owners, manufacturers and farmers.

He supports a policy in which the state can release local ad valorem taxes that are first collected at the local level and then sent to the state. Those monies need to be redirected back to local governing units, and those elected officials can then provide property tax relief.

Davis said an ill-conceived income tax plan has caused much angst among rural residents because it harms essential services and rural schools, which he says are a key to a community’s long-term survival.

The “Brownback experiment” has not resulted in a windfall for state coffers and has shifted the burden to regressive property taxes, which impact the elderly and rural property owners, the lawmaker said.

If elected, Davis’ plan is to suspend any additional income tax cuts to allow the state finances to catch up. No more tax reductions will occur until funds are restored for schools.

On the campaign trail, Kansans are concerned about the direction of state finances and how they might affect essential services to the elderly and those unable to take care of themselves. The quality of life defines what many in agriculture are proud of in their communities, he said.

He has been supportive of the dialogue the governor has started to help define a long-term water plan. A final draft is expected this fall.

“The magnitude of this issue cannot be overstated. This is a huge issue for the future of economic activity, particularly in western Kansas, and it has a major impact on our state’s economy.”

The dialogue has to include municipalities, landowners and a diverse mix of industry groups and that will have to continue past the issuance of a final report.

“All these people have to be at the table and work together to find a solution that works,” he said.

Writing a long-term plan is important but so is financing it. The governor has to take the role in prioritizing funding, and Davis believes that is something he would do.

Davis believes adequately funding rural schools is a priority and is required by state law. He has demonstrated in the past that he has been able to work in a bipartisan manner to aid public schools, as he cited several examples in the past decade in which he has worked with Republicans and Democrats to develop equitable funding plans.

He was also supportive of wind energy as part of the state’s renewable energy portfolio. Harvesting the wind has been a benefit to utility companies and family farms, which in turn is good for the state’s economy.

“Kansas is one of the top three windiest states in the nation,” Davis said. “We can harness it and develop in it a way that is profitable and is renewable, and its continued development is essential to our state as is the oil and gas industry.”

Dave Bergmeier can be reached by phone at 620-227-1822 or by email at dbergmeier@hpj.com.

Date: 8/25/2014



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