By L&T Publisher Earl Watt
Last night’s forum between Shannon Francis and Jim Rice was entertaining, informative, and was handled very professionally by both candidates as well as the Liberal Chamber of Commerce.
Both of these guys love to discuss public policy, and they certainly had their chance to make their case last night.
As a newspaper publisher, I also enjoy public policy discussions, and after the forum, I discussed some details with both candidates about some of their responses. Both agreed with my assessment, and so I thought I would share those thoughts with you.
During a question about education, Shannon responded that there should be some fundamental similarities about education form one place to another, and he said, “A kid in Liberal, Kansas should get the same education as a kid in Las Vegas ... New Mexico.”
It received some laughs and made his point about Common Core.
The education a child receives in Kansas should not be the same as what a child receives in New Mexico.
The Kansas public education system should be better. Our state should not be looking to create the same cookie-cut kid that everyone else is making. We should stand out. Our kids should be the leaders in whatever field they choose because they received a Kansas education.
When I discussed this with Shannon after the forum, he agreed.
A question about keeping taxes low (surprise, surprise) also came up, and Jim Rice discussed that the best way to do it was to spread the tax burden to additional contributors. This happens, according to Jim, through growth.
To take that thought further, growth has to outpace natural population growth and the rate of inflation.
Here’s what it would take: For Seward County to truly grow would require population growth ahead of the national growth level. Kansas typically lags the national growth, and that is how we lose representation in Washington, D.C.
According to the Census, U.S. growth has been 2.4 percent since 2010. In Kansas, population growth has only been 1.4 percent. Seward County is outpacing the state with 1.9 percent growth.
But growth also has to outpace inflation, which is currently 2.1 percent in 2014.
The cost of government is no different than the cost of bread, milk, gas or anything else we buy. It will cost more, but if more people are contributing to pay for the services, we can keep taxes steady.
We need to get our growth above 2.4 percent which will put us at the national rate of growth and above the inflation rate.
Jim Rice agreed with that premise after the forum as well.
Finally, and perhaps the most difficult for anyone, is how to deal with the agencies in Topeka.
From highways to wildlife, the agencies epxected to carry out policy, and recommend them, are not necessarily made up of economists, sociologists, business people or elected officials. They are comprised of engineers, environmentalists and other “experts” in their specific field.
When asked how to work with the regulatory agencies, both candidates talked about reason, common sense and reviewing the facts.
The difficulty with that approach is many in the agencies are not concerned with that type of input. More often than not, they disdain the notion of making decisions based on politics or economic impact.
They forget the fact, for example, that we build highways for the purpose of trade. The reason we want to drive from one location to another is for social and economic concerns. Roads are political infrastructure designed for the economy, but engineers simply do not care.
Legislative leadership is the only way to rein in the bureaucrats. We simply have to tell them to do what we want and where we want it.
What was refreshing about last night’s discussion was the respect between the candidates and how often they agreed. Wouldn’t that be nice to have in Topeka?