Local control of funding of Johnson County schools and tax policies that promote economic growth are the top issues for two Republicans running for Kansas House District 19.
Stephanie Sawyer Clayton of Overland Park and Bruce Belanger of Leawood are on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. The winner will face Democrat Zachary Luea of Overland Park in the general election Nov. 6. The incumbent in the district, Jim Denning, is running for the Kansas Senate.
Clayton and Belanger both say they would support an increase in the amount of money Johnson County schools can raise under the local option budget. Schools should be allowed local, rather than state control, they said.
Their views on other issues were more divergent. Belanger, who listed expanding the economy as his top issue, said he would support reductions in the corporate income tax rate, even if it means short-term losses to the state treasury. “Decisions made for the short term are often not the best,” he said, adding that Kansas should be more concerned with being competitive with other states in the long run.
Clayton disagreed, saying reductions in income tax would inevitably cause an increase in sales or property tax, “which is particularly hard on seniors on a fixed income.”
Although there was a push last session for elimination of the state income tax, neither candidate fully supports such a move. Clayton listed a “balanced tax plan” as one of her top priorities, explaining that she thinks a balance of income, property and sales tax is needed, rather than an emphasis on sales tax.
Belanger said he supports a lower income tax to spur growth, but stopped short of full support of a phase-out, saying he had not yet decided on that issue.
They also differed on immigration questions. Belanger said he would vote for a law allowing police to ask for citizenship documentation if they suspect the person is in the country illegally.
Clayton, however, is against such a law, saying it could result in racial profiling.
And on the question of in-state tuition allowed for undocumented Kansas high school graduates in the process of applying for citizenship, Belanger did not answer yes or no, saying “In-state tuition is a benefit that should be exclusive to Kansans. If you are a Kansan, you get the benefit, if you are not, you do not.”
Clayton would not repeal the in-state allowance, saying “If we are going to have undocumented individuals in Kansas then I would prefer that they be educated and thus better able to find employment and therefore less likely to need other more expensive assistance from the state down the line.”